How to Dress like a
Your guide to What the well-dressed Nobility will be wearing this season
While some alterations were made
to clothing for greater comfort at sea,
a 17th-century pirate's attire was not
greatly different from others in his
social class. The greatest distinctions
in fashion can be seen in the clothing
of the aristocrats of the day. While
most pirates were of common birth, there
were a few aristocrats who turned to
piracy during this era, as well as many
pirate captains whose plundered clothing
gave them the appearance of English
The illustrations below depict
the most distinctive differences in
attire between men of the nobility
across three centuries of piracy:
The capitans of the
Spanish treasure fleet wore something
similar to the above, as did John
Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and the
other privateers who preyed on them.
Trunk hose (also known as "slops") were
worn during most of the 16th century and
first quarter of the 17th.
The stiff, formal look of the
1500s continued until the ascension of
Charles I in 1625, whose French wife,
Henrietta influenced English fashions
with a quieter, more elegant style. The
standing ruff gave way first to the
falling ruff, then to the Rabat collar.
Extremely popular during the 17th
century, lace was a valuable pirate's
prize, plundered from ships en route to
colonies in the New World.
During this century, common
sailors adopted the practice of cutting
breeches off at the knee, allowing for
freedom of movement. The term "slops"
came to mean all articles of clothing
sold by the purser to sailors of the
Piracy reached its "Golden Age"
during the 18th century, when the
justacorps (introduced during the last
third of the 17th century) was at the
height of fashion. Perhaps that's why
this long, wide-cuffed garment is
colloquially called a "pirate coat"
This 18th-century image is the
pirate archetype popularized in books
and movies such as "Blackbeard's Ghost,"
"Long John Silver," and "Treasure
Spanish nobleman, 1533-1566
17th-century: English nobleman,
18th-century: French marshal,
illustrations: ©2001 by D. Thomas
Treadwell of the outstanding
Pieces of Eight Website - Check
Braun & Schneider
Historic Costume in Pictures.
New York: Dover Publications,
Inc; Ruby, Jennifer (1988)
Costume in Context: The
Stuarts. London: B.T.
Batsford Ltd; Cordingly, David
Under the Black
Flag: The Romance and the Reality of
Life Among the Pirates. New York:
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