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What Pirates Wore ( from A Miscellany on Arm and Armor, Dwight Franklin, 1929)

The Popular idea of a pirate is more picturesque than accurate. He has become so conventionalized that he is now a grotesque symbol of romantic villainy. Our modern version is a fierce, swashbuckling fellow with a huge black moustache, his head bound up in a gay bandanna, surmounted by a large black sombrero adorned with skull and bones painted crudely in white, huge brass curtain rings dangling from his ears, a striped shirt with a broad collar open at the throat, a wide red sash in which are stuck the largest horse pistols obtainable-these are essentials for our popular pirate. Add to this equipment short running pants, bare legs, a great broad belt with an immense square brass buckle from which is slung a brass-guarded cutlass of the Civil War period, and, of course, floppy turnover boots and the picture is complete.

   This is the accepted version so common at masquerade balls, on the stage, in the movies and even in serious illustrations. How this comic opera villain originated it is hard to say, but it was probably about a century ago. He may be seen in the illustrations of "The Pirates Own Book" and prints of stage pirates of that era. But he is here to stay and woe betide the man who tries to dethrone him from the public's mind.

   When we look a the pirate of history as shown by contemporary prints, we find him at first glance less picturesque than our boyhood ideal.  There is no Death's Head on his hat, no gay bandanna or earring, no floppy boots or exaggerated shirt.  In fact, his appearance is devoid of the spectacular ( with the exception of that eccentric spirit-Blackbeard), and, save only for his weapons and the manner of wearing them, he would pass unnoticed in any crowd of seafaring men of his time.

But his fighting equipment is of special interest...