A Sharpe dressed man

With apologies to ZZ Top–I couldn’t resist! Anyway, I’d like to share some more tidbits from LIFE IN WELLINGTON’S ARMY, with thanks to Antony Brett-James for helping us all create our hot military heroes.

This time it’s about the uniforms. Wellington, nicknamed ‘the Beau’, dressed well himself. “Larpent says he had the skirts of his coats cut shorter in the Peninsula to make them look smarter, and one day in 1813 he found Wellington discussing with his servant the cut of his half-boots and suggesting alterations.” However, Wellington didn’t fuss about his army’s attire. Grattan of the Connought Rangers wrote: “Provided we brought our men into the field well appointed, and with sixty rounds of good ammunition each, he never looked to see whether their trousers were black, blue or gray; and as to ourselves, we might be rigged out in all colours of the rainbow if we fancied it. The consequence was, that scarcely any two officers were dressed alike! Some with grey braided coats, others with brown; some again liked blue; while many from choice, or perhaps necessity, stuck to the ‘old red rag’.”

I was interested to learn that some regiments wore kilts, which “did not always prove to be practical garment for campaign life. While advancing to the heights of Puebla during the Battle of Vitoria, the 92nd had to cross ditches so thickly lined with thorns and briars that the blood ran trickling down many a soldier’s leg.” By 1814 the Black Watch was the only regiment still wearing the kilt.

Wear and tear and dust played havoc with uniforms. One day in 1808 Captain Landemann of the Engineers and Major-General Henry Fane were riding side by side and observed there was little difference between their coats; the former was originally blue, the latter red. Another observer described how red coats deteriorated to something “as ragged as sheep and as black as rooks.”

Here is Captain Mercer’s description of the troops parading in Paris after Waterloo:

“The colour had faded to a dusky brick-dust hue; their coats, originally not very smartly made, had acquired by constant wearing that loose easy set so characteristic of old clothes, comfortable to the wearer, but not calculated to add grace to his appearance.”

A French student watching the same review wrote: ‘Oh! It was really like being defeated twice over, bis mori, to have been beaten by an army so badly turned out as the English army was…How could one be a good soldier under that little sugar-loaf of a peak, with the inelegantly cut red jacket, those grey trousers clinging to knock-knees?”

As for me, I’m not so turned off by a scruffy exterior. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with a dandy hero either—dandies have an understanding of pleasure and luxury that can be very sexy. I like variety in my fantasy men. I’ve got one dandy in my idea file. Still, I’ve got a slight preference for heroes who are active and look it. And I’d mend Richard Sharpe’s shirts any time! 🙂

How about you? Do you prefer your Regency heroes nattily turned out or on the rugged side?


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14 years ago

Oh beautifully turned out, please – but not too far over the top. There was a fashion for dandy-ism and I think some men took it a bit too far.

Although saying that, the MC in Heyer’s “Black Sheep” is a rather scruffy reprobate and wears riding boots to visit in and causes scandal for it, and I rather had the hots for him, but it was probably his attitude rather than his clothes.

And he’d HAD to be clean, too, I’m afraid. There were showers, even then – and as much as I’d have loved to follow Sharpe around the peninsula, I bet he was rather on the whiffy side.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hmmm, I like a man who doesn’t fuss over his clothes but who still turns the eye of every woman and man in a room.

And like Mrs. Bennett, I’ve always fancied a man in uniform.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Do you prefer your Regency heroes nattily turned out or on the rugged side?

One of the things I like about Wellington is that he liked to dress well *AND* was a tough campaigner, a bruising rider, and all those other lovely masculine things. (Not to mention a brilliant general, of course!)

Cara King
14 years ago

Erastes, I love the hero in Black Sheep too!!! Oddly enough, I was talking about him to my dh just yesterday… 🙂

I do like careless, scruffy heroes, but I also like dandy heroes. Oddly enough, I prefer my dandy heroes to be very dandy — Scarlet Pimpernel, etc — but was never as interested in one strain of the Heyer “Corinthian” type, the kind where they’re very into boxing and horses and all that, but also must be perfectly dressed. I guess it’s just all or nothing for me… 🙂


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Elena, I hope the 92nd survived that Battle of Vitoria with their family jewels intact from all those thorns and briars.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Um, I haven’t met a hero, I haven’t liked. Bring ’em all on.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Oh, I loved Miles om BLACK SHEEP too! I think his negligent dress was part and parcel with his attitude.

Elena, I hope the 92nd survived that Battle of Vitoria with their family jewels intact from all those thorns and briars.

I wondered about that, too. I mean did they dress then as they do now? Brett-James doesn’t say!

14 years ago

Ouch on the briars and brambles in a kilt! Who volunteered to do a jewel check??

Put me on the list of Miles in Black Sheep lovers! Loved that character and I think his dress was a reflection of his character.

I think that is my preference, let the mode of dress reflect the character and if the two are congruous I don’t have a problem with it.

14 years ago

Elena, you took my breath away! Well, not you precisely, but Sean looks so HAWT! I’d follow his drum any day of the week.

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