A 3-cornered hat with a standing brim, which was popular in 18th century.

The Details

Sigrid Pallmert, Kirsten Warner and Philipp Thüring describe the tricorne hat in the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (2010):

“The bicorne (cocked hat) and tricorne (three-corner hat) were striking forms of head covering for men that were reminiscent of eighteenth-century fashion, although the bicorne, being flatter, was more easily carried under the arm when not worn on the head. These two types of head covering, remnants of an aristocratic fashion ideal, were replaced by the top hat in the first decade of the nineteenth century.”

In figure 1, you can see a beautiful 18th-century tricorne hat from the National Museum of American History.

Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear Through the Ages notes that the tricorne hat emerged as the most fashionable hat for men for most of the eighteenth century:

“Before large wigs became popular for men during the late seventeenth century, low-crowned, large-brimmed, plumed, or feathered, hats were worn. As wigs increased in size, plumes disappeared and the brims of hats were cocked up. When the brim was folded up in three places, the hat became a tricorne, a three-cornered hat. Generally dark in color, tricornes were often edged with a gold braided trim after about 1675. Worn with one point forward, the tricorne hat emerged as the most fashionable hat for men in the late seventeenth and most of the eighteenth century. To be most stylish, men cocked, or tipped, their tricornes to one side or another. The origins of the tricorne hat go back to the battlefield, when soldiers wearing broad-rimmed hats pinned the sides up in order to channel rainwater away.”

A tricorne hat from the mid-18th century (Fig. 2) in the Met’s collection has the gold braid trim mentioned as fashionable.

Valerie Cumming in The Dictionary of Fashion History (2017) offers a brief description of the tricorne hat:

“Period: 1690 to the end of 18th century. The 19th-century name for a three-corned cocked hat worn by men, and occasionally women, when riding.” (271)

In figure 3, you can see another tricorne hat from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this one trimmed with ostrich feathers.

Fill Condra describes the tricorne hat in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History:

“Men often pinned up the entire brim in three places creating the “tricorned” hat that would be the hat of choice throughout the eighteenth century. The hat was often trimmed with braid or lace and a bunch of feathers.” (133)

“Another style of hat that was popular in the eighteenth century was called the tricorne (three-cornered hat), a style of hat that is by far the most iconic of the period and was considered to be worn most fashionably when all three sides of the brim were turned up or cocked.” (264)

In figure 4, here you can see how it looks like when people wear the tricorne hat, typically with one of the corners in the front.

Stephanie Curtis Davies describes the proper orientation of the tricorne hat in Costume Language A Dictionary of Dress Terms:

“Name given to three-cornered hat. The brim, bound with braid, was turned up, ‘cocked’ on three sides to form a triangle and the hat was worn with the point in front. 19th cent.” (148)

Tricorne Hat

Fig. 1 - Maker unknown (American). Tricorne Hat, 1779. Black felt with cockades; (6" h x 16" w x 15" d in). Washington: National Museum of American History, 32076. Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History. Source: National Museum of American History


Fig. 2 - Maker unknown (Italian, mid-18th century). Tricorne, mid-18th century. Wool. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26.56.88. Rogers Fund, 1926. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tricorne Hat

Fig. 3 - Maker unknown (French). Tricorne Hat, 18th Century. Beaver plush hat trimmed with ostrich feathers, paste brooch, and gold galloon, leather band at interior.; 35.6 × 11.4 cm (14 × 4 1/2 in). Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 43.1844. The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection. Source: MFAB

Tricorne Hat

Fig. 4 - Maker unknown (European, Late 18th Century). Tricorne Hat, Late 18th Century. Wool. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.38.47.4. Gift of Miss M. M. Mourraille, 1938. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art