Historical Uniform Dating


30/11/2012 by noonobservation

Being an aged spinster, I am constantly bombarded with suggestions that I might like to meet hot men, rich men, men into running, men who like horses, men who like dogs, and most of all, men who wear uniforms.

Working that hi viz look.

I am grateful to facebook for its motherly concern that I will end an old maid, but do I really want to go out with someone who looks like this?

Where are the plumes, bearskins, shiny buttons, oiled leather, gold braid or impractically tight trousers? That helmet isn’t going to protect you from a spear to the face, nor do you have a dramatic cloak to fly romantically in the wind and get caught on passing bushes.

For the love of Nelson, this is not how it was meant to be!

Proper Uniform Dating

I think we can improve on the tawdry modern-day selection of uniformed gents.

1. Spartans c.480 BC

Bonus feature: Spartan helmets minimise cobweb accumulation on domestic ceilings.

Mr Spartan is an outgoing, sporty type with a can-do attitude and the kind of chest that arrows just bounce off. Subjected to brutal military training from the age of seven, his dinner party repartee leaves something to be desired, but if you need a pint of milk fetching from the shop on the other side of the Persian army, he’s your man.

Uniform: Lovely red cloak, sexy horsehair plumed helmet for the officers, greaves, spear, really heavy shield. Historians disagree about the type of breastplate worn, so the Victorians rather sensibly started portraying Spartans as essentially naked. Good call, Victorians.

2. Knights c. 1300

Knights: impractically romantic

Sir Knight is a true romantic, willing to rescue you from any amount of discomfort, up to and including deadly peril (providing you are of noble birth and under 30). He will happily whisper sweet nothings into your ear, though sadly in French. Being absolutely loaded, Sir Knight is a real catch, but may often spend long years abroad (subject to will of his liege lord), leaving you to do all the housework, shopping and siege warfare.

Uniform: The chivalric ideal required the owning of a lot of cumbersome military equipage, including full body plate armour, great helm, mail, shield, lance, sword, surcoat, banners, horse draperies, barding, plumes, etc. NB: Ladies interested in dating Mr Knight must own large shed.

3. Hussars 1700-1860

Oh, pe-lisse!

Mr Hussar is a fine figure of a man (he has to be to fit into his uniform). Drawn from the cream of European society, this light cavalry officer is as at home at the opera, gaming table or brothel as he is on the battlefield and enjoys fighting duels, seducing women and being pointlessly and recklessly brave. The French hussar general, Lasalle said that any hussar who lived past 30 was a blackguard.

An 11th Hussar at Balaclava. Tight trousers were a major cause of Victorian men looking uncomfortable in photographs.

Uniform: Being light cavalry, hussars can forget all that tediously heavy armour and concentrate on style. Uniforms were usually colourful, and commonly featured a pelisse – a short jacket that could be either worn or strapped across the left shoulder (like a dashing superhero cape) offering protection from sword cuts – and tight, tight breeches. The 11th Hussars (of charge of the light brigade fame) were known as the “cherry-bums” partly on account of their impractically tight red trousers. It was not unknown for aged hussars (blackguards) to wear girdles to disguise middle-age spreads and thus preserve the honour of the regiment.

Mr Hussar would suit a fun-loving, open-minded girl with a relaxed attitude toward adultery and who doesn’t mind a boyfriend who borrows her underwear and looks more glamorous than she does.

Interestingly, while looking up information on hussars and their trousers, I discovered that the craze for tight, flat-fronted men’s trousers of 1962 caused a similar upsurge in girdle sales.

4. Airmen 1914-18

Mr Aviator is a thrill-seeking sort of chap who enjoys near-death experiences and subsequent heavy drinking. An early adopter of new technologies, he can always be seen with the very latest prototype canvas-and-glue death trap, soaring high above his luddite cavalry brethren. Interests include photography, inventing ways of attaching machine guns to planes and obsessively listening to the sounds that engines make.

Uniform: Flying in northern France can be exceptionally cold, so pilots opted for fur, wool, leather and waxed canvas, accessorised with sheepskin boots, leather flying helmet, iconic goggles and lashings of grease.

The Gengis: an early prototype that did not perform well in combination with the Hitler moustache.

Not all uniform experiments were entirely successful and some pilots ended up looking like Gengis Khan. Still, the rugged, outdoorsy apparel with just a hint of biker rebel was a hit with the ladies, though not with superior officers who regarded airmen as ill-disciplined adventurers.

Don’t you just love an ill-disciplined adventurer?

Mr Aviator is looking for a (probably) short term relationship with a steady-nerved lady, not too concerned for his personal safety and with the ability to knit really warm socks.

5. Sailors

Sailors, ready to get tary.

The able seaman flourishes best within highly structured environments. His obsessive daily cleaning and knowledge of knots can be a great asset around the house, though unrestricted access to the drinks cabinet is not advisable. Quite the ladies’ man, the able seaman has a jolly, loveable disposition, though he can occasionally be unpleasantly “tary”. Interests include climbing, foreign travel and whoring.

Yarmouth Town!

Uniform: Varies greatly with century and climate, but generally involves blue and white canvas clothing, ribbons, silly hats and oilskins. Notable items include the famous sou’wester (as favoured by fishmongers’ dummies), the shirt bib, which protected the back of the shirt from greasy pigtails, and the sailor’s cap with embroidered ribbon telling you which ship to return the seaman to if it gets lost/you grow bored of it.

A vestigial shirt bib on a short-haired sailor.

Officers developed a comely affinity with broadcloth and gold braid from the mid-18th Century, but never adopted proper knee-high leather boots, and therefore their uniforms remained mediocre.

The able seaman would suit a jolly lass who doesn’t mind him coming home for tea several years late minus a limb.

6. SS Officers

Illustrations from the Osbourne Nazi Spotters Guide.

Herr Nazi is obviously a total dick-bag in every conceivable way; amoral, violent, officious, socially stilted and nauseatingly self-important, not to mention EVIL.

His uniform on the other hand, created by the Hugo Boss factory, is an elegant ensemble, combining excellent tailoring, tasteful sombre colours, pretty black and white facings, and those knee-high leather boots I’m so partial to. If it wasn’t for the aroma of genocide…

The Fassbender test: In an attempt to separate the uniform from the associated Evil, let us compare how British and Nazi uniforms look on the same non-Nazi subject. Admittedly, Michael Fassbender (not a Nazi) looks great in everything, but does he look better as a Nazi?

The razor-sharp Boss vs cuddly Dad’s Army charm.

Somehow, I can’t even bring myself to include a photo of a real Nazi in this post. Isn’t that interesting. Just to be totally clear, I would not date a Nazi, despite their pretty uniforms, and I don’t recommend that you do either, unless you have no moral compass, and really, not even then.


In general, cavalry officers (and related breeds) have by far the best uniforms. This is probably because they are rich and wear riding boots. Does anyone know any 19th Century cavalry officers I could meet for luncheon (and maybe something more)? I can stretch as late as 1918? Victorian cricketers also considered.

7 thoughts on “Historical Uniform Dating

  1. russiansnows says:

    I’m glad to see the hussars are represented!

  2. Maxinterax says:

    Ah, I have always had a soft spot for the pelisse. I suppose the English Civil war period clothes are off the scale, for they are either plain black with a ruff, or overly decorative with ample lace.

    • I consider the parliamentary uniforms of the Civil War to be one of the biggest fashion fails of the 17th Century. The Cavaliers were only slightly better, but only because they wore less turd-brown. Lace, however, has no place in war.

  3. Gladys says:

    Quite agree, but you’ve forgotten the musketeers!

  4. Georgina says:

    Very enjoyable and funny article. I must confess to the love that cannot speak its name – for the purely aesthetic appeal of number 6, which reaches its apotheosis when attiring the fine form of Mr Fassbender

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: