Regency Fashion: Hessian Boots

Sometimes a branding can make you forget the origin of a word.

It was that way with Hessians for me until recently, when it dawned on me in a stupid (or brilliant) moment that it must have been taken from the German Hessian army style of boots.


(From Folk-etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions, 1882)

With their marked styled V in the front and dangling tassles, Hessians were particularly sharp with tight fitting breeches.  According to the New Monthly Magazine (1823), the pair were a match made in fashion heaven:

However, the style was initially effected with knee breeches.  German Hessian soldiers were imported to help Britian battle the pesky colonies in 1776, and their military issue boots became the rage in the UK, replacing the traditional bucket top boots from the previous century.

With the Empire waging war all over the world, military officer fashion took the mainstream with abandon.  Hessians, with their polished leather looks and jaunty tassels, became as standard for the Corinthian or Pink as the perfect chapeau.

During the Regency era, most likely influenced by military issued trousers, knee breeches were going the way of the Dodo in men’s fashion (except, of course, at Almack’s).  With Wellington storming London fashion (as well as the Napoleanic fields of war) by wearing his trousers exclusively, Hessians were eventually trimmed and eased to fit with looser fit pants.  First made at the behest of Wellington himself, they forever bore his namesake.



Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Regency Fashion: Hessian Boots

  1. Beau Brummel set the fashion for the long pant, and others followed. I also believe that the Hessians were because the Prince Regent wore them with his faux military uniform. However, this is a “think”, not a 100%. I think that I read that in a fashion book.

    I absolutely love these boots. I have read many, many historic novels with these boots included. However, most authors that I have read forget that they were very difficult to remove.

    • admin says:

      So very true! And funny you mention the hard to remove part…in a recent read of the masquerading theme A Difficult Disguise by Kasey Michaels (check for the review soon) there is a whole scene where the heroine has to remove the master’s (hero) Hessians. He actually uses his other foot against her backside as leverage to dislodge the boot…

      Makes you appreciate how many bruised backsides there were among the valets of Mayfair.

      My favorite Hessian scene is in Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester, and the case of missing gold tassels.

      I didn’t know that about Prinny being the start of the fashion, but it is hilarious to envision him pinching himself into a faux military uniform and marching around one of his decadent palaces. (see this post: for a wonderful Cruikshank cartoon).