11 May 2017

Review: Badge, Boot, Button - The Story of Australian Uniforms by Craig Wilcox

* Copy courtesy of NLA Publishing *

Having worn a military uniform myself, I'm very interested in the way in which they distinguish the different services, establish authority, unify employees across a variety of industries as well as identify schools and sports teams alike.

Badge, Boot, Button - The Story of Australian Uniforms provides a detailed and well-researched overview of how Australian uniforms have changed and evolved over time. Written by Australian historian Craig Wilcox and covering uniforms from 1788 to the present, there's something to capture the interest of any reader. 

I enjoyed reading about the red shoulder capes (called a tippet) worn by nurses and was fascinated to learn that nurses could spend an hour a day ironing and starching their uniforms. Only those working the night shift were given a reprieve, because the starched uniforms were too noisy and could wake the patients.

The history of the iconic slouch hat is included, as is the baggie green hat beloved by cricket fans and players. The evolution of the AFL uniform is covered and despite not being interested in football, I found it interesting nonetheless. I enjoyed the section on the Sydney Olympic volunteer uniform and the ever increasing competition in some corporate sectors.

Relevant snippets from newspaper articles were incorporated into the text and gave a real insight into how these uniforms were received by the public - or at least the media - at the time. There's a distinct focus on military uniforms, although that's not terribly surprising given Wilcox worked at the Australian War Memorial.

If you're still not sure this book is for you, here's an excerpt from the blurb:
Over the centuries, uniforms have played an important part in Australian history, from the landing on Gallipoli to the High Court decision on the Mabo case. They've made soldiers and firefighters braver; humiliated convicts; empowered sporting heroes; both liberated and shackled women and made corporates fashionable.

If you have any questions for Craig Wilcox about any kind of Australian uniform, let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my upcoming interview with him.

Update: click here for my interview with Craig Wilcox.
My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I've received two reader questions for the interview with Craig Wilcox:

    - Does it annoy you when watching films and drama documentaries when the uniforms aren't accurate yet there is a "historical military adviser" in the credits?
    - Why do women still wear tricorn hats in the Royal Australian Navy?

    I'll be putting these questions to Craig so stay tuned for the interview to see his answers.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!