A swagger stick
is a short stick or riding crop
usually carried by a uniformed person as a symbol of authority. A swagger stick is shorter than a staff
, and is usually made from rattan
Originally, it was a functional implement used to direct military drill and maneuvers, or to administer physical punishment. In the Roman army, short vine wood staffs were carried and used for corporal punishment by Centurions (often career soldiers), not by higher officers (often from the socio-political elite). Nowadays it is more often a traditional visual attribute. Swagger sticks are most familiarly carried by military officers or more senior non-commissioned officers. They are also often carried by officers in police and paramilitary forces.
United Kingdom Armed Forces
In the British Army
and other militaries following the Commonwealth
traditions, commissioned officers
carry swagger sticks when in formal uniform as a symbol of rank. Warrant Officers and Senior NCOs carry longer pace sticks
or regimental sticks instead, although a Regimental Sergeant Major
may be seen sporting a swagger stick. British swagger sticks are often topped with a silver cap, bearing regimental insignia. A swagger stick remains an essential part of an officer's equipments and they are supplied by traditional British military tailors such as Gieves & Hawkes
and Goldings. Cavalry
officers will often carry a riding crop
rather than a swagger stick, in deference to their mounted traditions.
United States Armed Forces
The swagger stick is not generally carried by US military officers, having long ago gone out of style. General David M. Shoup
, Commandant of the Marine Corps
, referred to the swagger stick during comments on proposed uniform changes in 1960
. While stressing the need for uniforms to be simple and rugged, with no need for gimmicks and gadgets, General Shoup commented:
There is one item of equipment about which I have a definite opinion. It is the swagger stick. It shall remain an optional item of interference. If you feel the need of it, carry it…
Few, if any, contemporary Marine officers feel the need to carry a swagger stick.
- US Army General George S. Patton carried a swagger stick throughout World War II; however his contained a concealed dagger, similar to a Victorian gentlemen's sword cane.
- One of the original purposes of the swagger stick was to help keep the officers from putting their hands in their pockets.
- Is currently used by male tour guides at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida. Its purpose is to give male tour guides something to hold and use to direct guests' attention to, while female tour guides use a riding crop.