Cockades and the Great War

On April 6, 1917 America entered the Great War to End All Wars - now known to history as World War I. Obviously it didn't end all wars, but it did create massive change in culture around the world. As we look back 100 years later, I think the story of how the Great War changed cockades is a symbolic picture of how the Great War changed society in general.

There were many outcomes, good and bad, from the war. But one of the biggest was CHANGE!

Women At Work
A big societal change brought about by the war was the movement of women into industrial jobs. With the mass exodus of men into the military, women were often required to fill in the manufacturing jobs formerly occupied by men.

How did that affect cockades? As a consequence of this alteration in their workplaces, women had less time for sewing "trifles" - including cockades.

Uniforms of Solidarity
Another interesting change brought about during the war years was the huge amount of people wearing uniforms. Not only were there millions of men in uniform, but women joined the military for the first time, thus wearing uniforms too.

For women in the workplace, dresses and skirts got in the way of factory work so it made sense to wear a pants uniform on the shop floor.

Men and women also wore uniforms for home front activities and associations. Uniforms were often created for aid societies as a show of solidarity and patriotism.

Consequently, the wearing of individually styled cockades fell out of use for the military due to uniform regulations, and for civilians as mass-produced buttons, ribbons and membership medals took their place.

New Ideas, New Words
Though war brings destruction and killing, it also often brings bursts of progress. Warfare changed dramatically during World War I and many technological and medical advances occurred too. Ambulances, antiseptics and anesthesia...tanks, flame throwers and aircraft carriers...modern rubber, ultrasound, and plastic surgery - all had their start during the war.

Along with those technological changes came changes in ideas. Communism, socialism and women's suffrage gained traction worldwide. A surge of cynicism over the war's carnage rose, but was also accompanied by a rush of patriotism in all levels of society.

New words were added to cover new situations and norms. Consider phrases we use today that had their origination in World War I - in the trenches, over the top, no man's land, shell shock.

As language reflected the addition of new ideas and the dropping of old, I've found that the very word "cockade" began its gradual disappearance from American publications.

Cockades of the World Wars
You might be concluding from all of this that cockades vanished in World War I - but not to worry! They were still around and still worn by patriotic people.

I have both American and French cockades in my collection dating to the World War years. And I've enjoyed the highly fashionable images I've found from this era of ladies wearing them. Here's a sampling for some "eye candy."

However, as mass production became easier, people also began to wear the forerunners of our modern metal buttons and pins. Some were made in the round shape we now associate with patriotic buttons, but some were still in the shape of cockades! Celluloid, an early form of plastic, was used as well as pasteboard and metal to form these emblems.

In this picture of some cockades in my World War collection, you can see the two ribbon cockades with a celluloid cockade in between them.

The Modern "Cockade" Is Born
Just as the Great War changed the face of culture around the world, so the patriotic cockade was also changed. As industrialization, modernization and mass production brought uniformity to culture, it brought the same to the patriotic emblems we now wear.

Just as today it's unusual to see someone in a hand-sewn outfit, it's also unusual to see them wearing a hand-sewn cockade.

But patriotism still flourishes in America even though our expressions of it have changed. And if you look closely, you'll still see people wearing modern "cockades" - lapel pins, t-shirts and jewelry that show our love of our country.

Need A Great War Cockade?
Using vintage striped ribbon and getting inspiration from my World War originals, I have created a cockade for the modern era. Show your patriotism anywhere - or reenact the Great War - with this red, white and blue emblem of the good ole USA!

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