Officer Uniform Styles in the 1800s

Updated April 17, 2017

During the 1800s, or 19th century, the Napoleonic Wars saw the defeat of the French Empire, the British and German empires expanded, and the U.S. fought the American Civil War. Uniforms of this period were carefully constructed and brightly coloured. Officers often had multiple uniforms for different occasions, and the French especially saw that their officers were very well dressed.


The French were known for extravagant uniforms during the Napoleonic Wars, and officers had as many as 10 uniforms to wear for various occasions. They varied in colour, but were always a variant of the French colours -- red, white and blue -- often with a stitched white cross on the centre. Gold striping with a row of gold buttons decorated the front of the jackets. Pom-poms, plumes and cords also decorated the jackets and trousers of the French officers.


German uniforms from this era were often a deep shade of blue, called Prussian blue. Their uniforms were not as detailed as the French, but the same care was taken in tailoring. Red accents and various gold cords and pom-poms decorated the front of the jackets.


The British were coined "Red Coats" in the late 18th century, and the uniform colour continued through the 1800s. The red coats were cropped with two long rows of gold buttons down the centre. The officers regularly wore white trousers and red or black hats with or without decorative white feathers on the front. Officers might have gold-braid epaulettes. Several officer jackets had decoration at the bottom of the sleeve.


The American Civil War Union officers wore deep blue jackets, and the Confederate army was adorned in grey. Officer uniforms were distinguished by a double row of buttons running down the centre of the coats. The standing collars were often decorated with gold embroidery and the rank of the officer was communicated by the stripes on the jacket. The popular Kepis hats were a flat brim of black with a blue fabric and contrasting stitching. The U.S. Marines wore longer coats, reaching knee-level with either one or two rows of buttons and decorated cap sleeves.

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About the Author

Veronica Maier has been an active online writer since 2010. She has been a contributing writer to eHow and Answerbag. Maier holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history and visual culture with an emphasis on the American modern from the University of California, Santa Cruz.