Sunday 20 December 2020

Occupational dress in Randle Holme

Laroon's Sweep 1688
There are few items of dress in the seventeenth century that are specific to certain occupations, except perhaps for aprons, which have already been covered at Men in Aprons. Most working men wore what was normal clothing for the time. Randle Holme in his Academy of Armory gives some descriptions of various working men, for example; the carpenter “with a cap on his head, sable turned up argent. Cloathed in a short coat girt about the middle, grey; breeches and hose russet. Shoes of the second” and “the like in a short Coat girt, Knees bare, with Startops on his Leggs.” As Randle Holme was a herald all the descriptions he gives are in heraldic terms. Here are a few more of his descriptions of men in various occupations, and a list of the heraldic colour equivalents.


Barber “A barber is always known by his cheque particoloured apron; it needs not mentioning; neither can he be termed barber (a poller or shaver as anciently they were called) till his apron be about him.”

Chimney-sweeper, “term him a Man in a Gown, and Broad Brimmed Hat, with a Bag and his poles on his Shoulder, with a Beazom or Brush at the ends, all Sable. This is the Badg of a Chimney Sweeper.”

Cooper “in his waistcote and cap, breeches and hose russet”

Cooper, 1640s Cryes of london

Running footman – “generally for ease of speedy going clothed in light thin cloaths, all in white as doublet slashed or open, breeches or drawers, and stockings of the same, thin soled shoes called pumps. These men run by their Lord’s coach or horse’s side.”

Hedgers are described as having “Mitten. This is of some termed a hedged mitten and glove to hedg with; a tethering glove.”

Porter “carrying of a Pack, Argent, Corded Sable; Cloathed in Tawney, Cap and Shooes of the third. This is the Badge and Cognizance of all Porters and Carriers of Burthens; they have ever a Leather Girdle about them, with a strong Rope of two or three fouldings hanging thereat which they have in a readiness to bind the Burthen to their Backs whensoever called thereunto.”

Sailer “in a short Coat and Startops, and a Cap.” “A Sailer, proper, his Cap, Gules, turned up, Or, a Crevat or Sailors Scarf about his Neck party coloured, in a Wastcoat and Canvice Breeches, Hose, Argent, Shooes, Sable; holding of a Rope in both hands, which proceed out of the Dexter chief, of the last.

 Salter, or Salt-Man, “or Wich-Man, with a Staff on his right shoulder, with a Salt Basket (or Salt Pannier) hung thereat, and a Staff in the other hand, … Cap Sable, turned up and Cloathed Gules, Hose of the first, Shooes of the third.” “A Salter proper; Hat and Shooes, Sable ; Cloathed, Gules; his under Coat Argent, with a Staff in his right hand, and a Salt Basket hanging over his left shoulder, Or; the Rope or Withe, Sable.

Tinker “with his Budget on his Back, Hat, Apron and Shooes, Sable; Clothed all in grey; having always in his mouth this Merry cry, Have you any Work for a Tinker”


Heraldic colours:

Tinker, 1640s Cryes

Argent                Silver/white

Or                        Gold/Yellow

Gules                    Red

Azure                   Blue

Vert                      Green

Purpure                Purple   

Murrey                Mulberry

Sable                   Black

Sanguine             Blood red

Tenné                  Tawny 


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