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.
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.