1800 hair fashions: the 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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4 Comments to “1800 hair fashions: the cadenettes”

  1. jeff says:

    They hung straight by pistol balls interwoven in the ends,and officers did not normally wear them.

  2. Penny says:

    Fascinating. Now I have something to picture in my head.
    Had not realized how strong they were.

  3. I am not surprised! These have a definitely unBritish look, don’t they? Saint-Regent was a Navy man before becoming a Chouan, and yet he wore them. To please the ladies?

  4. Richard says:

    I knew of the braids but I did not know they had a name. The two marks of a hussar, cadenettes, and moustaches. Usually only a hussar would wear cadenettes, they kept the mirleton, shako or the colpack on the head during charges by being worn infrom of the jugulars (chin scales). Hussars were quite dashing and were a favorite of the ladies. they had a certain swagger, and aire.

    About 1805 military fashion regulations changed and so the cadenettes were cut off, slowly. The real end of an era. Most continental Europeans hussars wore then except the British.

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