1800 hair fashions: the cadenettes

cadenettes

Man wearing cadenettes

Some characters in For the King, including the would-be assassin Pierre de Saint-Régent, wear cadenettes. What were they?

They consisted in two side braids worn in front of the ears, while the rest of the hair was gathered in two more braids behind the ears. Those were tied on the nape to form a queue. Odd male fashions? In fact there was far more to them that mere looks.

The cadenettes, often reinforced with small wooden rods at the center of the braids, protected the cheeks and back of the neck in close combat. They were sturdy enough to ward off the blade of a saber, and could mean the difference between life and death, or at least avoid a disfiguring injury.

Thus they were quite popular with soldiers, or those who wished to give themselves a martial allure. Saint-Régent, described by certain witnesses as wearing cadenettes in the weeks that led to the assassination attempt on Napoléon, may have been used to wearing them during his years as a Chouan insurgent. He later cut them off, probably to change his appearance, because at the time of his trial, he is shown as wearing his hair cropped short, in the fashion popular with civilians at the time (and to this day.)

Cadenettes have remained associated with the soldiers of Napoléon’s armies. If you visit the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, you will notice that the frieze that goes around the monument depicts many of them wearing their hair in this manner. All fashions, regardless of time and place, are in some way odd and arbitrary, but this particular one happens to make more sense than most…

Thanks to Jenn’s Bookshelves for hosting this guest post!

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