18th Century Gaiters & Spatterdashes

Last updated: Feb 18, 2022

For improved organization & navigation, the links here are divided up into extant examples and depictions on farmers, peddlers, laborers, beggars, hunters, other civilians, and soldiers.

The New World of Words, or Universal English Dictionary (1706) says that Spatter-daſhes or Spatter-plaſhes are “a ſort of light Boots, without Soles,” while A Dictionary of the English Language (1775) defines spatterdaſhes as “coverings for the legs” (further suggesting the words gambade and gambado as synonyms). A Law Dictionary (1708), on the other hand, provides more distinguished language: “Huſeans, Of the French Houſeau, i. ocrea, a kind of Boot, or ſomewhat made of courſe Cloth, and worn over the Stocking; a Busking, or as the vulgar call it a Spatterdaſh.”

(On a related note: a c. 1775 trade card for John Drakeford, Spatterdaſh Maker, indicates that he “Makes & Sells all Manner of Spring Spatterdashes in the Best & Newest Fashion at Reasonable Rates — N.B. any Gentelman Sending the Length of the Leg, the Size of the Calf, Small, Heel, & Instep in Inches, may be Furnished with Spatterdashes as if Present.” In addition to the three spatterdashes pictured on Drakeford’s trade card, spatterdashes also appear on the trade cards for Thomas Coe, Shoemaker, Metcalfe Johnson, Boot & Shoe Maker, Timothy Smith, Shoe Maker, and Wood, Spatterdash and Gaiter Maker to His Majesty’s Forces, &c.)

The word gaiters seems to be the term used more often for leg-coverings worn by soldiers, as in this verse from “A Soldier, A Soldier for Me”:

Each morn when you see him upon the parade ...

Extant examples

  • NT 1349377.1/1349377.2, brown suede with seam lines trimmed with brown leather, decorated with brown leather and fastened with metal buttons, possibly Spanish, 17th century
  • MFA 43.1704a-b, brown leather with appliquéd decorative sections backstitched with white cotton, western European, 18th century
  • MFA 43.1712a-b, brown leather with appliquéd decorative sections, western Europe, 18th century
  • A pair of original Prussian army gaiters, c. 1786
  • Bonhams Sep 26 2012, Lot 219, white linen spatterdashes with 28 blackened bone buttons and white wool spatterdashes with 9 wool-covered buttons, late 18th to early 19th century
  • NT 1349374.1/1349374.2, Holland partially lined with linen and fastening with self-covered buttons, c. 1800-1815
  • NT 1349376.1/1349376.2, buckskin fastening with metal and bone buttons, which have been moved to make the gaiters larger, c. 1800-1815
  • Met 1978.85.3a, b, a pair of cotton and linen gaiters with horn buttons, British, 1805-1810

Spatterdashes in agricultural & rural contexts, including farmers & yokels

Peddlers, beggars, & other laborers in spatterdashes

Hunters & sportsmen in spatterdashes

Spatterdashes in other civilian contexts

Gaiters in military contexts

Additional Resources

On gaiters, Cuthbertson’s System for the Complete Interior Management and Œconomy of a Battalion of Infantry (1776)

Marines Du Contrecoeur: French Marine Gaiters, ca. 1750

Gaiter Prevalence and Configuration, ca. 1768-83, Being the Utilization of Gaiters, of Half-Gaiters and of Spatterdashes by the Various Battalions of His Majesty’s Guards and Marching Regiments of Foot
Full Gaiters, based on those in Making a Continental Marine Uniform
The Topped Gaiter of 1768
Spatterdashes, or Half Gaiters, adapted from Making a Continental Marine Uniform

A Study of Soldiers’ Lower Legwear in the British and Prussian Armies, 1740-1786