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"1870s Kepis/short shakos with pompoms?" Topic

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FilsduPoitou14 Dec 2023 12:24 p.m. PST

I was reading up about the pantalon rogue on Wikipedia and I came across a picture that piqued my interest: an old illustration of French uniforms from the Bourbon Restoration to the end of WW1. I'm not well read on the FPW at all, but I got the impression that outside of the Chasseurs d' Afrique, the shako was completely discontinued around the start of the FPW. And yet below you can see pompomed shakos alongside the fatigue cap in 1870, 1875, and even in 1900 you have pompomed kepis at least. Is this authentic?

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2023 2:33 p.m. PST

The shako was still the regulation headdress in 1870 but the kepi was officially authorized for active service, more or less as a fait accompli as the troops were already using them as such. The shako was retained for full dress from 1875-1890. Strictly speaking, the chasseurs à cheval and hussars began WWI with a very short shako, apart from those in the 1912 pattern helmet. The distinction isn't immediately apparent in some illustrations as it largely come down to a conical vs cylindrical cross section.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2023 5:54 p.m. PST

As enfant perdus pointed out correctly. The black-felt shako was regulation headwear since the early days of the Second Empire. It was not like the shako in Napoleon's time or afterward. The Kepi was an unofficial fatigue cap. It had been worn in the Crimean War. In 1870 it was officially recognized in regulations as a general issue item. Most of the soldiers quickly adopted it.


42flanker15 Dec 2023 7:35 a.m. PST

In the 1830s, there were two notably developments in French army headgear, part of a gradual, very gradual, Europe-wide movement away from the uniforms of the Napoleonic period.

In 1830, the French invaded Algeria. As in colonial campaigns elsewhere, the heavy regulation chaco proved unsuitable for desert campaigning. Officers at first and then the troops soon adopted non-regulation, peaked cloth caps referred to generally as casquettes d'afrique. In 1839-40, an experimental unit of Chasseurs à Pied was formed, known variously as the ‘Chasseurs Vincennes' or ‘Chasseurs d'Orleans.' Inspired in part by African experience, instead of the regulation chaco and coatee, they wore more practical tunics and a lighter cap, or casquette-chaco.

Remarkably, the generals saw the merits of this more practical headgear over the traditional bonnet de police, with its hanging flamme, in use since the 17th century, and c. 1843-45, together with a lower, conical casquette, a blue bonnet de police à visière was authorised. It seems that German soldiers in the newly formed Légion Étrangére may have referred to this headgear as kappi whence comes the familiar term ‘képi.' In 1852, the famous red crowned bonnet de police à visière or képi was introduced.

In the victorious if costly ‘Napoleonic' campaigns of the 1850s, the familiar image of the Imperial troops in their red caps popularised this characteristic piece of French headgear, famously adopted by the US army. In actual fact, there are images of Austrian cavalry in soft crowned conical caps from the years immediately following the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Gradually, the formal regulation casquette of the French army reduced in size, becoming lower and softer (retaining its pompon) while the képi became more cyndrical and its peak flatter until, as often happens, following the Great War the undress képi became the formal headgear of the French army.

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