Buccaneer Style | Big Hats and Long Boots

Welcome to the second post in my #SwashbucklerMonth series. If you missed my introductory post, click here to read it. 

One of the most romantic figures of all periods is the cavalier. They are symbolized as adventurous, chivalrous, and excellent swordsmen.

Most swashbuckler films are based around the period where cavalier fashion was prevalent. But there are some of earlier or later years, for example, Buccaneer’s Girl (1950), Seven Seas to Calais (1962), and Fire Over England (1937).

Let’s look at a few films that boast some of the most notable pieces of cavalier fashion: big hats and long boots.

Cavalier Hats

“And I’ll buy you the hat. A really BIG one… Commodore.” — Captain Jack Sparrow 

Maureen O’Hara and Anthony Quinn in Against All Flags (1952)

Although I am not a purple fan, I wouldn’t be any kind of a person if I didn’t envy Maureen O’Hara’s costume here. Her black felt hat is a might smaller in the brim than most cavalier hats and she wears a boldly striped kerchief over her hair. This picture is from the film Against All Flags, where Maureen O’Hara gets the opportunity to showcase her fiery temper in the role of a pirate. Her clothes are equally exciting warranting a post of their own. She is the epitome of a glamorous female swashbuckler.

Errol Flynn in Against All Flags (1952)

Here is Errol Flynn from the same film wearing a cavalier hat with a dyed red ostrich feather.

The style of the cavalier hat was begun by the French giving the wearer a more flamboyant character. They also sported longer locks of hair and an extensive floppy brim to the hats. In England it evolved from the higher topped hats with little to no brims and was replaced later with the tricorne.

From The Spanish Main

In films it appears customary to turn the left side of the hat up, but according to historians, any which side could be turned up and pinned with a large broach or jewel.

This picture shows two members of the Captains of the Coast in the film The Spanish Main. Notice that the hat worn here is gray instead of black, and features a black plume. Colors of this period were often what you see here, browns, black, grays, and some richer colors like deep blue and burgundy.

Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara in The Black Swan (1942)

In the movie The Black Swan, Tyrone Power wears a sort of cavalier ensemble with a strangely heavy influence of Spanish. In fact I can’t help thinking “Zorro” when I see it (which is not too far off since he stars as Zorro in the 1940’s The Mask of Zorro). His hat is not as wide-brimmed as a cavaliers and resembles a cowboy hat. Instead of the ostrich plume he wears a length of ball fringe off the back. In any case, the time period aimed for here would be only slightly later than the cavaliers due to the presence once again of wigs and low collars.

Long Boots

There are two types of shoe you often see in films of this period. The tall boot and the high-heeled shoe with the buckle. I have always preferred the former.

From The Spanish Main

In the film The Spanish Main, this Spanish guard is being strangled. Lovely, huh. He wears long calfskin boots with an average heel and pointed toe. Every time we watch this film we can’t help but admire his boots.

Maureen O’Hara and Errol Flynn in Against All Flags (1952)

But the best example of swashbuckler boots are the ones the stars of Against All Flags wear. Errol Flynn’s are similar to the ones above but rolled down part of the way. The toe of the boot is less pointed and has a very low heel.

Maureen O’Hara wears a pair that remain up and feature fancy embellishments at the top. They are black and are made of a thicker leather, giving them an even more durable look. She wears these throughout the movie with different outfits, except for the few rare moments when she is in a dress.

Maureen O’Hara and Errol Flynn in Against All Flags (1952)

The knee- and thigh-high boots were popular for many centuries because of their practical uses. For sailors, the long design kept feet and legs dry while insuring maneuverability. Over the years the style of the leg changed, at times being floppier and more bell-like and others like Flynn’s in the picture, less obvious.

Since the popular film The Pirates of the Caribbean has come out in early 2000’s, the swashbuckler costume has been much copied. Some wear doublets or jerkins, vests or capes, but all don the romantic articles such as these, the cavalier hat and boots.

Have you found this post interesting? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Coming up next: a review of the second best pirate film!


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