How Did They Wear Their Cockades?

It's one thing to look at an original cockade and admire its beauty. It's another thing to wear a reproduction yourself - HOW did they wear their cockades? Most questions I get about wearing cockades concern the American Civil War, so that's the time period this post will focus on.

How Men Wore Cockades

How did men wear their cockades? A look at original photos and quotes will show us that gentlemen have many options!


When we look at photographic evidence, a large percentage of gentlemen wore their cockades pinned to their lapels. In "Blood and War at my Doorstep," Brenda McKean's memoirs of the war recall, "Patriotic individuals were sporting secession badges on their lapels and bonnets."

This civilian gentlemen is probably wearing an 1864 campaign cockade on his lapel, based on the date on the back of the photo. 

Shoulder or Chest

Obviously, many uniforms and battle shirts did not have lapels. In those cases, photographic evidence shows a number of soldiers wearing their cockades on their chest or shoulder. Note these two examples of military gentlemen.

I have found on rare occasions that gentlemen sometimes wore their cockades on their vests. It is possible that this man is wearing a mourning cockade (it appears to be made of dark ribbon with a photo in the center). If so, he may have felt it would be more decorous and respectful to the person he was mourning not to wear it flamboyantly on his lapel or sleeve. It could also be a campaign cockade, in which case he may have wanted to keep it protected under his coat till he reached his political meeting.


When looking at original quotes, by far the most oft-mentioned method of wearing a cockade is on the hat. (There would probably be more photographic evidence of cockades in hats if it weren't for the fact that many gents took their hats off to be photographed.)

Tennessee soldier Sam Watkins wrote in "Company Aytch," "I saw then what I had long since forgotten - a 'cockade.' The Kentucky girls made cockades for us, and almost every soldier had one pinned on his hat."

South Carolina militia men organizing in the fall of 1860 wore their cockades as military hat badges. "The badge adopted is a blue rosette, two and a half inches in diameter, with a military button in the centre, to be worn upon the side of the hat."

Civilian men also wore cockades on their hats. In fact, this January 1861 account mentions some black gentlemen who did so in Tennessee. "The Bolivar (Tenn.) Southerner says that the negroes of A.S. Coleman, Esq., of that place, created quite a sensation in that town a few days ago, by appearing on the streets with blue cockades on their hats."


And finally, some men chose to wear their cockades on their sleeves. Military gents almost universally did so when wearing a mourning cockade. We can see this by the many photos of officers wearing Lincoln mourning cockades after Lincoln's death in April 1865. Notice General Grant doing so in this picture.

I have occasionally seen photos of gents wearing political badges on their sleeves as well. In fact, this 1864 Lincoln campaign cockade has string ties on it, making it easy to tie it on as an armband.

The summary? Gentlemen, you have many choices for wearing your cockade!

How Ladies Wore Cockades

There is a lot of documentation that women wore cockades, as well as men. But how did they wear them? On their bonnets? In their hats? On their shoulders? The answer: All of the above!

There are many references in the newspapers, memoirs, and letters of the times talking about ladies wearing cockades, and there are even a few photographs. 


The New York Times printed a report from New Orleans in November 1860 which said, "What gave peculiar interest to this grand display of beauty, grace, and elegance, was the exhibition of blue cockades worn on the shoulders of nearly all the ladies who appeared in public."

Gideon Lincecum of Texas wrote on December 3, 1860, "Mass meetings, conventions, and minute men is all the go. Lone Star flags and blue cockades are fluttering to every breeze and glittering on every hat, as well as on the breast of many of our patriotic ladies."

This is certainly one of the easiest ways to wear your cockade. But hold on, there's more!


A quote from "Grander in Her Daughters" says, "Journalists covering the growing groundswell for secession in Tampa noted that blue cockades pinned in ladies' hats were 'a token of resistance to abolitionist rule - an appropriate graceful little emblem that evinces the true spirit of the wearers.'"

Fannie Beers wrote in her memoirs of the war, "Hats and bonnets of all sorts and sizes were made of straw or palmetto, and trimmed with the same. Most of them bore cockades of bright red and white (the "red, white, and red"), fashioned of strips knitted to resemble ribbons. Some used emblems denoting the State or city of the wearer, others a small Confederate battle-flag."

Ladies' hats were usually decorated with ribbons and flowers so it would have been easy to nestle a lovely cockade in the hat's decorations.


Brenda McKean recalled in her memoirs, "Patriotic individuals were sporting secession badges on their lapels and bonnets. Described as folded blue ribbons, some badges were red, white, and blue ribbons. Others wore a flower posy called a Southern badge, which consisted of a cluster of hyacinths and arborvitae tied with red/white/blue ribbons. Other men preferred a rosette of pinecones. Both men and women wore blue cockades during secession in Rockingham County, N.C."

The Daily Exchange noted in December 1860, "Many of the ladies of Richmond now wear the secession rosette in their bonnets, while others show the Union colors, red, white and blue."

So if you are a lady who wants to know where to wear your cockade... you have many options too!

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