The pirate captain’s hat is also known as the tricorne or a tricorn, and it can be defined or described as the hat style that was rather popular in the 18th century. Although it fell out of style by the 1800 and the name tricorne was only adopted in the mid-1800s, the hat was popular among the pirate ship captains. During the 18th century, this hat was known vastly as the cocked hat; it came in different styles and sizes.
Besides pirates, this hat was also popular among the aristocracy, although it was also worn as part of the civilian clothing/ dress and would also be seen as a part of the naval and military uniforms.
The tricorne is typically made of animal fiber, with the most expensive variations of the hat made of the beaver-hair felt. The inexpensive versions were, however, made of wool felt.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the hat is its practical design featuring turned-up portions of the brim, forming a gutter-like shape. These ‘gutters’ would help keep the wearer’s face relatively dry by directing the rainwater from the face, emptying the water over the shoulder. The design of the tricorne, therefore, gave the wearers a distinct level of an advantage when it rained, especially because there was not specialized raingear at the time.
The other notable feature of the tricorne is the pinned-up design of the sides of the hat, along with the pinning at the back, hence the triangular shape of the hat. With the pinning of the broad rims, the hat would be worn in with the pointed end facing forward. It wasn’t unusual, however, for soldiers to wear this hat with the pointed end facing the left. This was the case for most soldiers because their rifles or muskets would rest on the left shoulder for better clearance. The crown, in the case of the hats worn by the soldiers, would be low, unlike Puritans’ steeple or top hats common in the 19th century. Generally, the tricornes ranged from the very simple hat designs to the more extravagant hats that would feature silver and gold lace trimmings, and in other cases, feathers. Additionally, the hats worn by the naval and military personnel would have a cockade or a national emblem in front.
History of the Tricorne
The tricorne’s appearance was a result of the evolution of the then-popular broad-brimmed round hats worn in Flanders by the Spanish soldiers in the 17th Century. The soldiers would pledge the brims, which is how the triangular shape of the tricornes came to be. And since the tapered corners of the hat offered protection from the rain, especially in the Flemish weather, the triangular shape became a favored hat design for the Spanish soldiers. The tricorne hat design started gaining popularity in 1667 when war broke out between Spain and France in the Spanish Netherlands. And during the ensuing military struggle, the use of the tricorne spread rapidly into the French population, as well as the royal court (King Louis XIV), making the hats fashionable throughout Europe as military and civilian wear.
The tricorne was quite popular by the end of the 17th century among the civilian fashion and the military uniforms, remaining in style and its decline at the end of the 18th century where it evolved into the bicorne used in WWI and fading in WWII.
While the tricorne is stereotyped as the pirate captains’ standard headwear for gentlemen, it was without the crossbones and skull emblem.