Napoleon bicorn hat

Historic Napoleonic hat

The bicorn or bicorne meaning two-cornered, is an archaic form of hat widely adopted in the 1790s as an item of uniform by European and American military and naval officers. It is now most readily associated with Napoléon Bonaparte but in practice most generals and staff officers of the Napoleonic period wore bicornes, and it survived as a widely worn full-dress headdress until at least 1914.

Descended from the tricorn, the black-coloured bicorn originally had a rather broad brim, with the front and the rear halves turned up and pinned together – in English the shorter front brim was called ‘the cock’ – hence ‘cocked hat’, and the longer rear brim was termed ‘the fan’, forming a semi-circular fan shape; there was usually a cockade in the national colours at the front.

Later, the hat became more triangular in shape, its two ends became more pointed, and it was worn with the cockade at the right side and eventually became known as the cocked hat, although to this day it is still known as the bicorne in French.

Famous bicorn wearers

  • Napoléon Bonaparte
  • Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz