A livery is a uniform or other sign worn in a non-military context on a person or object (such as an airplane or vehicle) to denote a relationship with a person or corporate body, often by using elements of the heraldry relating to that person or body, or a personal emblem, and normally given by them. It derives from the French livrée, meaning delivered. Most often it would indicate that the person was a servant, dependent, follower or friend of the owner of the livery, or, for objects, that the object belonged to them.
During the 14th century specific colours, often with a device or badge sewn on, denoting a great person began to be used for both his soldiers and his civilian followers (often the two overlapped considerably), and the modern sense of the term began to form. Usually two different colours were used together, but the ways in which they were combined varied with rank. Often the colours used were different each year - a strange echo of modern football (rugby) teams. As well as embroidered badges, metal ones were sewn onto clothing, or hung on neck-chains or (much the most prestigious) livery collars. From the sixteenth century, only the lower status followers tended to receive clothes in livery colours (whilst the higher status ones received cash) and the term "servant", previously much wider, also began to be restricted to describing the same people. Municipalities and corporations copied the behaviour of the great households.
The term is also used to describe badges and grander pieces of jewellery containing the heraldic signs of an individual, which were given by that person to friends, followers and distinguished visitors, as well as (in more modest forms) servants. The grandest of these is the livery collar. William, Lord Hastings the favourite of King Edward IV of England had a "Coller of gold of K. Edward's lyverys" valued at the enormous sum of £40 in an inventory of 1489. This would have been similar to the collars worn by Hastings' sister and her husband Sir John Donne in the Donne Triptych by Hans Memling (described in Sir John Donne). Lords gave their servants lead or pewter badges to sew onto their clothes. In the 15th century European royalty sometimes distributed uniform suits of clothes to courtiers, as the House of Fugger, the leading bankers, did to all employees.
The sense later contracted to servants' rations and distinctive standardized outfits, often in a colour-scheme distinctive to the family, like the coats worn by footmen in grand houses until World War I, and to provender for horses, from which we have inherited "livery stable" (1705)
The term is now rarely if ever applied in a military context, so it would be unusual for "livery" to refer to a military uniform or the painting of a military vehicle. Early uniforms were however regarded as a form of livery ("the King's coat") in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Cabbies' complaints about liveries drive plan for changes ; Under a city proposal, liveries would have to be licensed, pay fees and be subject to inspection.
Aug 10, 2004; JOSIE HUANG Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 08-10-2004 Cabbies' complaints about liveries drive plan for changes ;...