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Aiguillette

[ey-gwi-let]

An aiguillette is an ornamental braided cord most often worn on uniforms but may also be observed on other costumes such as academic dress, where it will denote an honor. Originally, the word "aiguillette" referred to the lacing used to fasten plate armour together and particularly to support the arm defences. As such, a knot or loop arrangement was used which sometimes hung down from the shoulder.

Aiguillettes should not be confused with lanyards, which are cords also worn from the shoulder (or around the neck), but do not have the pointed aiguillette tips (see Aiguillette (ornament)) and are usually of fibre rather than gold or silver wire, and often not braided.

A series of fanciful legends has developed about the origin of aiguillettes. One account relates that when certain European troops behaved reprehensibly on the field of battle, their commander decided to hang certain of them. The troops asked to be given a chance to redeem themselves and started wearing a rope and spike about their shoulders with the promise that if they ever behaved badly again, they were ready to be hanged on the spot. It is further related that these troops covered themselves with glory thereafter. Another tale recounts that aiguillettes originated with cord and pencil worn by Generals and staff officers for writing dispatches. Still another account has it that the idea is French in origin and goes back to the use of horses in battle. A general's aide-de-camp carried a loop of cord to tie up the general's horse during dismount. As a practical approach, the aides would loop the cord around the epaulette flap on the shoulder of their tunic. All such accounts have no basis in fact.

Further, it has been argued by gunners that the aiguillette originates with the practice of carrying a pick on a shoulder rope, with which a gun captain would clear the touch-hole of a fouled cannon. Musketeer arguments suggest that the "tags" on the aiguillette are representations of wooden charge-carriers. Another discounted gunner related origin suggests that the "tag" represents a spike carried by the gun captain with which he would "spike" the gun if capture was imminent. Finally it has been suggested that the aiguillettes derive from the shoulder decoration worn by standard bearers in the French Imperial (Grande) Armee under Napoleon. The standards were topped by the imperial eagle or "aquila". The standard bearers were known as "aiglettes" to their comrades-in-arms. (From Uniforms of the Sea Service - R.H. Rankin)

Canada

Aiguillettes with shoulder boards are worn by military Aides-de-Camp to the Governor General. The aiguillette is gold with brass tags and worn on the right shoulder. Aides-de-Camp to the provincial Lieutenant Governors wear the same gold pattern aiguilette on the right shoulder, but do not wear shoulder boards. Aiguillettes are worn on the left shoulder by Aides-de-Camp to general or flag officers and diplomats. Aides-de-Camp assigned to the Sovereign or officers holding a Royal Appointment wear the aiguillette on the right shoulder. Obsolete style gold braid aiguilettes mixed with army crimson, navy blue, or air force blue may also still be worn by Aides-de-Camp to Lieutenant Governors, Flag and General Officers and diplomats who still have them.

France

The aiguillettes are worn only with the dress uniform. There are several types of aiguillettes in the French military:

  • Aiguilettes on the right shoulder are worn by officers filling certain duties.
    • Staff officers in the President's Staff, the Prime Minister's Staff, the Defence Minister's Staff and the Maréchaux's Staff. The aiguillette is always in gold wire.
    • the aides-de-camp to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Légion d'honneur, the Chiefs of Staff and the DGA. The aiguillette can be silver or gold, depending on the Officer's Corps. The AdC to the generals in the Army and the Air Force and all the staff officers in the Navy can also wear this aiguillette.
    • the military attachés of an embassy. The aiguillette is always in gold wire.
  • Aiguillettes on the left shoulder are worn by all members of some units :
    • The Gendarmes. The aiguillette is white for the Gendarmerie départementale and gold for the Gendarmerie mobile, including the Garde Républicaine.
    • The Bands. This aiguillette can be blue, red, or gold.

Aiguillettes should not be confused with fourragères, which can be worn in the same way on the left shoulder in parade dress.

United Kingdom

There are four types of aiguillette worn in the British Army.

The following aiguillettes are worn in the Royal Navy:

  • Royal aiguillettes of gold wire cord with gold embossed aiguillette tips are worn on the right shoulder by Aides-de-Camp, Honorary Physicians and Honorary Surgeons and Equerries to the Sovereign, Equerries to members of the Royal Family and Admirals of the Fleet.
  • Naval aiguillettes of gold wire cord flecked with dark blue silk, with gold aiguillette tips ornamented with silver anchors are worn on the left shoulder by Naval attachés and Naval advisers, Captains of the fleet, Chiefs of staff, Flag captains, Flag lieutenants and Admirals' and Commodores' secretaries.

United States

The aiguillette, in gold cord, is worn on the right shoulder by military aides to the President of the United States. It is worn on the left shoulder by military attachés, General Staff Corps officers, and aides to flag officers; the cord colors are gold for the Marine Corps & Army, gold and blue for the Navy, and silver for the Air Force.

A red aiguillette is worn on the left shoulder by United States Navy boot camp Recruit Division Commanders. A blue aiguillette is worn on the left shoulder by Cadets in Charge of Quarters at the United States Air Force Academy, as well as by Military Training Leaders at technical training bases. Student Airmen leaders at technical training bases (sometimes called "ropes" in reference to the aguillette) also wear aguillettes, with green representing the lowest level of student leadership, yellow representing the intermediate level of student leadership, and red representing the highest level of student leadership. Students wearing a white rope are commonly referred to as chapel guides, and are charged with providing social or moral support to their fellow Airmen. Airmen who wear the black rope are experts in drill, ceremonies, and pride themselves on appearance and uniform wear. In the United States Air Force as well as in the Civil Air Patrol, Honor Guard members wear a silver aiguillette on the left shoulder. CAP cadets acting as Cadet Advisory Council Representatives at the national level wear a gold aiguillette, at the regional level a blue aiguillette, and at the wing level a red aiguillette.

The aiguillette should not be confused with the fourragère, which is worn by soldiers and Marines who are assigned to units that were awarded certain decorations by the French Government for valorous conduct in the First and Second World Wars (see fourragère for details).

A similar device, the blue infantry cord, is worn on the right shoulder by enlisted soldiers and officers serving in infantry and airborne infantry units.

Ireland

Aiguillettes are only worn by the Aides-De-Camp to the President and Taoiseach. The President's ADC wears it on the right shoulder, the Taoiseach's ADC on the left.

Russian Federation

Aiguillettes are worn by honor guard personnel. A single silver aiguillette is worn on enlisted cut uniforms of minor detachments. A single gold aiguillette is worn on officer cut uniforms of minor detachments. A double gold aiguillette is worn on officer cut uniforms of major detachments. All personnel of major detachments wear officer cut uniforms.

Singapore

Aiguillettes are worn on the right shoulder by officers of certain appointments only. They include the:

  • Chief of Defence Force in the Singapore Armed Forces
  • Commanding Officers in the Singapore Police Force
  • Aides-de-Camp to the President
  • Honorary Aides-de-Camp to the President
  • Directors of Music in Singapore Armed Forces Band
  • Military Attaches and Assistant Military Attaches
  • MA/SO to the Chief of Defence Force and Service Chiefs

In Singapore, ADCs who are officers of the Singapore Armed Forces wear gold aiguillettes and Police officers wear silver aiguillettes.

Sri Lanka

Aiguillettes of gold wire cord are worn on the right shoulder by;

Aiguillettes of gold are worn on the right shoulder by;

Aiguillettes of Black are worn on the right shoulder by;

  • Police offices senior Gazetted Officers

Ghana

In Ghana, aiguillettes form part of the uniform of certain branches of the police, including the customs police, and immigration police. Ordinary police officers wear white aiguillettes with dark-blue uniforms, while customs and immigration officials wear red aigullettes with olive-green outfits. When worn, the aigullettes denote "on-duty" status.

Israel

In IDF aiguillette is a part of common soldier's uniform. There are a lot of colours, including red, green, gray, brown, black, white, purple etc. In most cases, soldiers who wear an aiguillette are instructors.

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