AKA: Epaulet shirt, pilot shirt
How to say it: ep–uh-let
- epaulette flaps on each shoulder with a button near the neckline
- classic styling on the rest of the garment
…of the style: Epaulettes (or epaulets) are a type of shoulder decoration used by armed forces and other organisations all over the world to indicate rank. The Epaulette as we know it today began as a bunch of ribbons on the shoulders of military jackets in the 17th century. They were used partially as decoration and partially as a means to hold up the soldiers shoulder belts and were tied in a knot, leaving the ends free and giving the impression of fringing – this set the design for epaulettes over the coming centuries.
In the 18th century the epaulette took shape as a round addition to the shoulder of the jacket, decorated with brocade and fringing and began being used as a means of distinguishing rank, which was indicated by the colour, size and side of the body the epaulette was worn on. In modern times the epaulette has evolved into a 5-sided shoulder strap that is sewn into the shoulder seam and buttoned near the neckline; although the more decorative, fringed versions are still used.
It is this later version of the style that gives the epaulette shirt its name.The styling of the shirt was originally based on the style of shirt worn by pilots, with billowed patch pockets and a convertible collar. How or when the style passed from the cockpit to the fashion world I have not been able to find out, but at some stage it did and eventually lost most of its ‘pilot’ design features. Nowadays the term epaulette shirt is used for any top that sports epaulette-straps on the shoulders, regardless of what the rest of the garment looks like. These tops pretty much always have a presence in the marketplace, but are particularly popular when military-styled clothing is on trend.
…of the name: Epaulette is a French word meaning ‘little shoulder’. The style is called an epaulette shirt because of the military-inspired shoulder straps included in the design.
21st Century Epaulette Shirts
In the modern marketplace the epaulette shirt comes in many shapes and colours, but generally speaking the styles tend to stick to classic lines and the all important epaulette on the shoulder.
Burberry London, Soft Joie