The ‘Swagger Stick’


Hugh: Great style is inbred. It sticks with you. Because of my days in the army, it’s in me. You won’t ever see me in jeans. Or brown shoes – only sergeants wore brown shoes.

In each camp there was a full length mirror and you couldn’t leave until you’d been checked over. There were different uniforms: the standard one was No. 2 Dress – it was bog standard khaki. No. 1 Dress was the same, but blue, and you’d have variations. In my regiment we had a double yellow stripe going down the trouser leg and chain-mail on our shoulders. We had to wear black velvet on our buttons and badges. This was because the colonel of the regiment was the Tzar’s cousin (Tzar Nicholas II) and we were to wear it until the Tzar’s murder was avenged.

Inner style exists…yes! In the old days as a soldier you couldn’t walk with your hands in your pockets, so soldiers had a ‘swagger stick’ which was a black ebony cane, carried under the armpit, to stop that from happening. You’re on show all the time. By looking at your uniform the public could tell who you were. Our parade dress was a ‘slashed peak’ – a peaked hat which comes down to your eyebrows. You had to look up to avoid tripping and you had to keep your head up – it gave you the image of being taller!

It affected how I felt.

In your ‘Blues’ uniform you held your shoulders back. Other regiments could see who you were. Your bearing was more erect. Everything was to maximise your impact…to the detriment of the other regiment… because of rivalry!

Hugh was interviewed by Roxanna at Meet Me At The Albany

Photo Zoë Gilmour


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