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A Peter the Great reenactor wearing a tricorne

The tricorne (also tricorn, tri-cornered hat or three-cornered hat) is a style of hat that was popular during the late 17th century and 18th century, falling out of style shortly before the French Revolution. At the peak of its popularity, the tricorne was worn as civilian dress and as part of military and naval uniforms.[1] Its distinguishing characteristic was a practical one: the turned-up portions of the brim formed gutters that directed rainwater away from the wearer's face, depositing most of it over his shoulders. Before the invention of specialized rain gear, this was a distinct advantage.[2]

The tricorne appeared as a result of the evolution of the broad brim round hat used by Spanish soldiers in Flanders during the 17th century[3]. By pledging the brims, a triangular shape was obtained, and since the corners offered protection from the rainy Flemish weather, this shape was favored by Spanish soldiers. From there, during the military struggles between the French and the Spaniards, its use spread to the French armies, and King Louis XIV made it fashionable throughout Europe, both as a civil and military wear.

The black-coloured tricorne has a rather broad brim, pinned up on either side of the head and at the back, producing a triangular shape. The hat was typically worn with the point facing forward, though it was not at all unusual for soldiers, who would often rest a rifle or musket on their left shoulder, to wear the tricorne pointed to the left to allow better clearance. The crown is low, unlike the steeple hats worn by the Puritans or the top hat of the nineteenth century.[4]

Tricornes ranged from the very simple and cheap to the extravagant, occasionally incorporating gold or silver lace trimming and feathers. In addition, military and naval versions usually bore a cockade or other national emblem at the front. The tricorne later evolved into the bicorne and eventually the cocked hat.[5]

Tricornes survive today as part of the traditional dress of the Chelsea Pensioners (UK)[6], the Guardia Civil (Spain) (picture)[7], and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps of the United States Army[8].

A black feathered tricorne is worn by the Lord Mayor of the City of London for all ceremonials and is in evidence at the annual Lord Mayor's Show in November, when the newly elected Lord Mayor enthusiastically waves it at the crowds.[9]

In the United States, the tricorne is associated with the American Revolution and American Patriots of that era, especially Minutemen (militia members of the American Colonies).[10] Participants in reenactment events often don tricornes, and they also can be seen in sports culture as worn by fans of teams with Revolutionary names, such as the New England Patriots (an American football team)[11], the New England Revolution (a Major League Soccer team)[12], the United States men's national soccer team, the University of Massachusetts[13], and the George Washington University.

In France, synagogue officiants (usually not rabbis), wear the tricorne on formal occasions.

It is traditionally used by students of the Minho University on formal occasions.

Chelsea pensioners in tricornes

See also


  1. ^ Gentlemen of Fortune
  2. ^ See UMass Digital Collection: Tricorn hat.
  3. ^ Castells, Albert. "Los tercios viejos y la presencia espaƱola en Flandes", Espasa, Madrid, 1997
  4. ^ Hats from the past till the present and their production (in Czech)
  5. ^ Cocked Hat -
  6. ^ The Royal Hospital Chelsea
  7. ^ Guardia Civil
  8. ^ Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
  9. ^ Lord Mayor's Show
  10. ^ American Headgear of the Revolutionary War
  11. ^ New England Patriots
  12. ^ New England Revolution
  13. ^ University of Massachusetts - Official Athletic Site

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