Friday, 1 April 2011

Typical British Sailor c.1750

This is the typical Sunday-best dress of a British sailor of around 1750. In the days before any official uniform for ordinary sailors a sort of uniform was produced by each ship having clothing issued by the ship's purser - so-called "purser's slops". The blue jacket without tails has the classic three-button opening cuff. The mustard coloured waistcoat would often have the addition of gold or silver lace if the sailor had won some prize money and if that were so his black leather buckled shoes would also possibly acquire silver or gilt buckles. Breeches and stockings were often worn as an alternative to the loose trousers. The small flat tricorne was typical working class wear and it was sometimes aped by young men of the upper classes. When out walking in the town a sailor would often carry a cudgel or cudgel-like walking stick.


  1. Very, very interesting indeed. It's great that you've given some coverage to an important group whose 'uniform' I don't think I've ever seen described. I didn't know any of this (uniform produced by ships, prize money spent on uniform distinctions, flat tricorns).

    Thanks very much for sharing these, David. I wonder what their French foes looked like. Pretty similar I'd guess (and perhaps be wrong)?


  2. Thanks, Adam. I'm glad you find it interesting. A splendid book on British naval dress of the 18th-19th centuries is: "Dressed To Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions 1748-1857" by Amy Miller, published by the National Maritime Museum. It has many illustrations, especially of surviving actual uniforms (for officers - for other ranks it's mostly only illustrations that survive). French naval uniform was also blue but with red facings and smallclothes for officers; other ranks were dressed in a similar motley fashion to the British. I do plan to depict the French on the blog; as always, it's a matter of having the time and energy to do it but I will get there in the end!

    All the best,



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