Clothing Styles in Capt. Jack Aubrey's Navy?

1805 seems to be a transitional period, for men’s clothing styles. Jack wears knee breeches, then long pants. His headgear ranges from a bicorn (fore and aft hat), to a tricorn, to a simple watch cap. Likewise the Marines-some wear top hats, others tricorns. the muidhsipment wear top hat like caps, also a mix of knee breeches and long pants. Why was this?

Because Glue Science was in its infancy, and it was difficult to make the glitter stick to the hot-pants.

A couple different reasons, none of which are opaque:

(1) It was a transitional period. Tricorne hats were, by that point, considered old fashioned and being put out of service. Style and fashion naturally evolved (as they are wont to do). Look at how many uniforms the US Army has used just in the last 15 years.

(2) They thought it was cool. This is not a joke… A lot of the really flamboyant uniforms of that era were either extremely inconvenient or actively injurious to the wearer, but they looked good. In the Napoleonic period in particular, some units had the notion that an officer who wore regulation issue uniforms was a dork and all the cool kids wore modified or custom tailored unis.

(3) It was harder to maintain uniformity in an era where mass production was only just getting started. They couldn’t share designs over the internet, and sometimes there were big differences in style and quality of clothing depending on which factory or production batch the clothing came from. Again, this is not unique to the period… Check out soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and you’ll see that even the wealthiest military on Earth has soldiers who show up in a mix of styles and privately purchased gear.

(4) Life was hard, and when your stuff wore out it was hard to replace. The QM was unlikely to carry loads of spare unis that took up precious space, so you had to improvise until you made land at a port that could resupply your unis and/or privately purchase a piece of equipment that was “close enough.”

Uniforms weren’t really that standard in that era- officers bought their own (still do, actually), and sailors were issued clothes, and made their own. But in general, there weren’t ironclad regulations about exactly how a 1805 Royal Navy Lieutenant’s coat, hat and breeches should be built and worn.

For example, something that recurs in the books is people noting that Aubrey still wears his hat “athwartship”, meaning sideways, in an older style than “fore and aft” like the younger officers. Nowadays, it’s likely highly regulated exactly which hats should be worn, and exactly how they should be worn, so there’s no leeway for an officer to wear his hat 90 degrees different than the rest of his officers.

I also think that things like long pants vs. breeches were more of a personal preference kind of thing; again, that kind of thing doesn’t happen much anymore. It kind of reminds me of baseball- for a while there, some players wore the long pants, and some wore the knee pants & long socks, on the same team.

This still happens. Players can choose the cut of their own uniform pants. Most choose full length, but there are still variations in baggy versus close. A few guys wear different styles on different days.

In terms of different clothes that Jack wore during the series, a lot of it was simply based on the circumstances of the day. Dinner with an Admiral? full dress uniform, with breeches and a bicorne. Taking a turn on deck during the middle watch? trousers and a cap (if he got dressed at all).
Boarding another ship? An old jacket (at Killick’s insistence) and Hessian boots.

I did like how the officers and mids were all expected to be in full dress uniform if anyone was to be flogged - he even berated a mid once for showing up without a dirk.

Winston Churchill, once First Lord of the Admiralty, said, “If we are going to kill a man, it costs us nothing to be polite”

Which is criminal, if you ask me. The only reason to watch baseball is to ogle the cute butts on display, and those full pants ought to be outlawed.

Because it is cur-tailed.


Also, during Jack’s brief career as captain of a Letter of Marque, he wore a plain coat and a watch cap - he didn’t want to wear anything that made it appear that he was trying to pass as a serving Navy officer.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Next time we dine with the Admiral, you must ask me why it is called the dog watch. And I will reply “Because it has been docked!” No, no, I am out.

You have made your cake, and you must lie in it.