What is the Difference Between Epaulet and Epaulette: Explained

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between epaulet and epaulette? You’re not alone. These two words are often mixed up and confused with each other. In fact, they have caused a lot of confusion, especially in the world of fashion and military. So, what’s the difference between these two similar sounding words? Let’s find out.

Epaulet and epaulette both refer to a type of shoulder ornamentation. The difference lies in the spelling and where they are commonly used. Epaulet is the American English spelling of the word, while epaulette is the British English spelling. Epaulet is commonly used in military uniforms, while epaulette is used in fashion and civilian attire.

Although the difference may seem minor, it’s still important to know the correct spelling and use. The last thing you want to do is show up to a formal event wearing an epaulet when everyone else is wearing an epaulette. It’s always better to be informed and avoid any embarrassing moments. So, even if the difference seems insignificant, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the details.

Origin and History of Epaulets and Epaulettes

The word “epaulet” or “epaulette” is based on the French word “epaule” which means “shoulder”. The two spellings are used interchangeably, but the former is more commonly used in the United States, while the latter is used more often in Europe. Epaulets and epaulettes have a long history, and their origins can be traced back to the 17th century.

The use of epaulets and epaulettes for military purposes dates back to the 17th century when French soldiers used them to hold their shoulder belts in place. Over time, epaulets became more ornate and were used to denote rank and distinguish soldiers on the battlefield. They were made of various materials, including gold and silver thread, silk, and bullion. They were worn on the shoulders of military uniforms and often adorned with tassels, fringes, and other decorative elements.

The use of epaulets and epaulettes soon spread beyond the military and became popular among civilians as a fashion accessory. In the 19th century, both men and women began wearing epaulettes on jackets and coats. However, the decorative versions worn by civilians were generally less ornate than military epaulets and were often made of simpler materials like cotton or wool.

  • The use of epaulets and epaulettes for military purposes dates back to the 17th century
  • They were made of various materials, including gold and silver thread, silk, and bullion
  • The use of epaulets and epaulettes soon spread beyond the military and became popular among civilians as a fashion accessory
  • Both men and women began wearing epaulettes on jackets and coats in the 19th century

Today, epaulets and epaulettes are still used in some military uniforms, but they have largely fallen out of fashion in civilian attire. However, they continue to be appreciated by collectors and history enthusiasts who recognize their significance as symbols of rank and distinction.

Materials and Construction of Epaulets and Epaulettes

In military and civilian fashion, epaulets and epaulettes have been used as a style statement for centuries. Epaulets and epaulettes could be made from various materials such as gold, silver, brass, and even plastic. The strength, texture, and thickness of the materials used differ based on the purpose they are intended for, but they must be durable enough to survive everyday wear.

  • Gold and silver epaulets were the norm for high-ranking naval officers in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were thick enough to be seen from a distance but light enough to be worn efficiently. They are also tarnish-resistant, which makes them ideal for their purpose.
  • Brass, on the other hand, was the preferred choice for army epaulets. Brass is long-lasting, and it sparkles better in the sun. It is also suitable for use in damp settings, such as in humid climates. The metals are made into delicate patterns that are matched with the individual’s rank.
  • For everyday use in the military, epaulets made from wool or polyester are more suitable. They are cost-effective, and most regiments or branches have distinct colors assigned to them, making it easier to distinguish between ranks.

The construction of epaulets and epaulettes has not changed much over time. Consistency in construction ensures that the epaulet or epaulette is appropriate size for placement and design according to rank. Typically epaulettes are made to rest on the shoulder while epaulets are fixed to the garment in a way that it cannot move. This is of particular importance in the military. Some more in-depth construction methods used are:

  • Machine Embroidery: They create a pattern or insignia on the epaulet/epaulette while keeping the fabric in between. This allows the pattern to have a raised effect.
  • Hand Embroidery: Inhand embroidery, an experienced individual specialist uses a needle and thread to create an intricate design on the epaulet/epaulette. With this technique, they create multi-layered designs that include the use of metallic thread and different textures.
  • Heat Press: Heat transfer is a technique that worked well on polyester epaulettes and epaulets. In this method, the design is first stamped on a transfer paper, then transferred to the fabric using heat.

As time has gone by, the style of epaulets and epaulettes has evolved. Nowadays, epaulets have lost their military charm and have become popular in everyday fashion. Epaulets and epaulettes are added to a variety of garments, and in some cases, they are strictly used for decoration purposes.

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Gold Tarnish-resistant and visible Expensive
Silver Tarnish-resistant and visible Expensive
Brass Long-lasting and sparkles Not Ideal for humid environments
Wool Cost-effective and variety of colors Easily Burns and easily frayed
Polyester Cost-effective, durable, and heat transfer designs well Less Pliable than Wool

The table above summarizes essential information about each material.

Usage and significance of epaulets and epaulettes in the military

Historically, epaulets and epaulettes were used in military uniforms to denote rank or status. They are a form of shoulder decoration that can be traced back to the ancient Roman military. Today, epaulets and epaulettes can still be found in many modern military uniforms, especially those of higher ranking officers.

  • Epaulets vs. Epaulettes: In modern usage, the terms epaulets and epaulettes are often used interchangeably. However, technically, epaulets are used to describe the type of decoration found on American military uniforms, while epaulettes are used to describe the same decoration on British military uniforms.
  • Rank and Status: In the military, the placement, size, and color of epaulets and epaulettes can denote rank and status. For example, a higher ranking officer would typically have more stripes or a different color of fabric on their epaulets/epaulettes than a lower ranking officer. These symbols of status can help troops quickly identify those with seniority and authority.
  • Functional Purpose: Beyond their decorative purpose, epaulets and epaulettes can serve a functional purpose as well. They can help secure a shoulder strap or harness, or even hold a sword or other weapon.

The following table shows the use and significance of epaulets/epaulettes in the US military:

Epaulet Rank/Status Color
None Enlisted Troops N/A
One Bar Second Lieutenant Silver
Two Bars First Lieutenant Silver
Three Bars Captain Silver
Oak Leaf Major Gold
Eagle Colonel Silver
Star Brigadier General and Above Silver

Overall, epaulets and epaulettes play an important role in the military as a symbol of rank and status, as well as a functional accessory for weaponry. Their history and significance make them an enduring part of military uniforms to this day.

Differences in epaulets and epaulettes in different countries

While the terms epaulet and epaulette may be used interchangeably in the United States, other countries may follow distinct conventions for these two items of military or civil dress. Here are some of the main differences in epaulets and epaulettes around the world:

  • Germany: In the German Army, epaulettes are worn by officers, non-commissioned officers, and certain enlisted ranks. Epaulettes are typically made of red, silver, or gold-colored fabric, and feature a metallic device called a “button star” or “litzen” that indicates the wearer’s rank and duty. The German Navy also uses epaulettes for officers and specialists, but with different colors and symbolisms.
  • France: The French Army and Air Force use epaulettes as a symbol of rank and branch. Epaulettes may be red, blue, green, or gold, with specific shapes and braids depending on the wearers’ position. This livrée traditionnelle is also followed by countries with French colonial roots, such as Haiti or Lebanon.
  • Russia and Eastern Europe: The tradition of wearing epaulettes in Russia dates back to the early 18th century, when Peter the Great reformed the military dress code. Russian epaulettes are distinguished by a cord or strap that connects them to the coat or tunic, forming a loop called a “shoulder board”. The colors, patterns, and symbols on the epaulettes indicate the wearer’s rank, branch, and regiment. Many Eastern European countries and former Soviet republics still use epaulettes with similar designs and meanings.

In addition to these examples, epaulettes are also used by militaries and paramilitaries in South America, Africa, and parts of Asia. Epaulettes may be inspired by earlier styles of armor or heraldry, adapted for practical or symbolic purposes. However, whatever the design or context, epaulettes and epaulets remain a fascinating and distinctive feature of professional uniforms around the world.

Evolution of epaulets and epaulettes in fashion

Epaulets and epaulettes have come a long way from their original military purpose to become a prominent fashion statement. Here’s how their history unfolded:

  • 1800s: Epaulets were introduced as a distinguishing feature of military uniforms, particularly for ranking officers. They were originally designed to provide a method for attaching ornamental braids and cords to a uniform.
  • 1900s: Epaulettes became more ornate with the introduction of different materials such as gold and silver bullion and metallic threads. They were also used to hold rank badges and identification insignia.
  • 1920s: Epaulettes made their way into civilian fashion as part of men’s and women’s clothing, particularly blouses, jackets, and coats.

Today, epaulettes have evolved into a trendy fashion accessory with a wide range of styles and materials such as leather, studs, and fringe. They have also become a common feature in streetwear clothing for both men and women. In contrast, epaulets are still used in military uniforms to denote rank and status, although their design has become simpler and less elaborate over time. Nowadays, epaulets are also used in fields such as aviation and hospitality to signify employment status.

The table below shows the different styles and materials used in mainstream fashion for epaulets and epaulettes:

Epaulets Epaulettes
Simple design Ornate design
Used in military uniforms Used in civilian clothing
Attached by stitching or buttons Attached by snaps or clip-ons
Usually made of cloth or metal Available in a wide range of materials such as leather, studs, and fringe

Overall, epaulets and epaulettes have had an interesting journey from their military origins to becoming a fashionable accessory. As fashion trends continue to evolve, it will be fascinating to see how these once-functional items will be reimagined.

Famous historical figures who wore epaulets and epaulettes

Throughout history, epaulets and epaulettes have been worn by numerous famous individuals, both in military and civilian settings. Here are just a few examples:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte: One of the most famous wearers of epaulets, Napoleon Bonaparte wore a distinctive pair with gold bullion fringe during military campaigns. His epaulets were often adorned with intricate designs and symbols, including the letter “N.”
  • George Washington: As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, George Washington wore epaulettes adorned with silver bullion braid to signify his rank.
  • Queen Victoria: The Queen of Great Britain and Ireland wore epaulettes as part of her military attire, with a unique design featuring silver scrolls and roses for her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards.

In addition to these famous individuals, many other military leaders and officials throughout history have worn epaulets or epaulettes to signify their rank or position. These include generals, admirals, and even some non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

While they may not be as prevalent today as they were in the past, epaulets and epaulettes continue to be an important symbol of military tradition and authority.

Rank Epaulettes Epaulets
Admiral Silver Two
General Gold Two
Colonel Silver One

As you can see from the table above, the style and number of epaulets or epaulettes worn can vary depending on the rank and branch of service. Regardless of the specifics, however, they all serve as a visual representation of authority and tradition in military dress.

Modern day use and variations of epaulets and epaulettes

While epaulets and epaulettes were initially designed to serve a practical purpose, such as denoting rank, they have become a popular fashion statement in modern times. Here are some of the ways that epaulets and epaulettes are currently used:

  • As a fashion accessory: Epaulets and epaulettes are often used on clothing items such as jackets, blouses, and dresses to add a military-inspired edge to the outfit. They can be found in a variety of materials and styles, from traditional gold braiding to studded leather.
  • In the performing arts: Epaulets and epaulettes have long been a staple in theater and dance costumes, adding a touch of drama and sophistication to the look. They are often used on costumes for military operas or ballets.
  • In military and civil service: Epaulets and epaulettes are still used today to denote rank in various branches of the military and civil service. They are also worn by airline pilots to denote their rank and experience.
  • In sport: Epaulets and epaulettes are sometimes used in sports uniforms, particularly in football (soccer) and rugby, where they can denote the captain of the team.
  • In cosplay: Epaulets and epaulettes are a common accessory in cosplay, particularly for characters from military or sci-fi genres. They can be made from a wide range of materials, from fancy brocade to craft foam.
  • In steampunk fashion: Epaulets and epaulettes have become a staple in the steampunk fashion genre, adding a retro-futuristic edge to outfits.
  • In everyday wear: Epaulets and epaulettes have become so popular that they are now used in everyday wear, adding a touch of style and sophistication to outfits for any occasion.

While epaulets and epaulettes share many similarities, there are some variations to consider. The following table outlines some of the key differences:

Epaulets Epaulettes
Usually worn on military uniforms Usually worn on civilian clothing
Small in size Larger in size
Typically made from metallic materials Can be made from a wide range of materials, including cloth, lace, and leather
Often used to denote rank More commonly used for decorative purposes

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of military-inspired style to your wardrobe, or you simply appreciate the history and significance of these iconic accessories, epaulets and epaulettes are a versatile and timeless addition to any outfit.

What is the difference between epaulet and epaulette?

Q1: What is an epaulet?
An epaulet is a decorative shoulder piece typically worn on military uniforms.

Q2: What is an epaulette?
An epaulette is a decorative fringed shoulder ornament, usually seen on civilian clothing.

Q3: Do the words “epaulet” and “epaulette” have different meanings?
No, they have similar meanings and are often used interchangeably.

Q4: Which is more commonly used, epaulet or epaulette?
Epaulette is more commonly used in British English, while epaulet is more commonly used in American English.

Q5: Can both words be used to describe the same item?
Yes, both words can be used to describe the same shoulder ornament depending on the context and the language used.

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Thanks for reading about the difference between epaulet and epaulette. Whether you’re interested in fashion or military history, it’s always important to know the proper terminology. Visit us again for more informative articles on a variety of topics.