Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Closer Look at Regalia: Part 1 - Aiguillettes

As we resume our regularly scheduled blog posts I find myself having trouble coming up with a topic. I headed over to Wikipedia, as I often do, and began to poke around for something interesting to write about. Now, many of you know that I really enjoy military history, especially the Napoleonic period, and how it relates to Commandery and other Masonic bodies. Much of the regalia adopted by the Masonic fraternity relates directly to military or civil commendations offered by governments around the world. I took this interest, and applied it to DeMolay, and decided to do some research on an often misunderstood part of DeMolay regalia, the aiguillette.

Now, I'm guessing most of you don't know what an aiguillette is, or even how to pronounce it! Simply put, it's a braided cord worn on the shoulder to denote some kind of service, award, or honor. It's most often seen on DeMolay officer capes in the form of a yellow cord held in place with a red button. The cord generally has a braided portion along with two unbraided loops and a metal tip, all being held together by a flowery looking loop (see the picture for more details!) But just what is the aiguillette supposed to denote in the real world or on a DeMolay cape? Thanks to Wikipedia, I have my answers!

Aiguellettes date back to the late 1700's, and are thought to have come into vogue with the ornamental uniforms of the Napoleonic times. Some people believed they developed from ropes used by Aide de Camps to wrangle horses, while others believe they were used by the artillery corps so that they would have an easily accessible metal pick to clean fouling (also known as gunk) out of their cannons. If you ask Senior DeMolay, and Past Grand Commander, Ken Faub (who wears a really fancy version of the aiguillette as part of his Knight Templar uniform) he says they were developed so that an officer would always have enough rope to hang himself should he not perform his duties up to par! Whatever the case, the real reason for these decorations seems to be clouded in mystery, but they continue to see heavy usage in militaries around the world.

In the United States the cords are used to denote special aids to elected officials and officers, members of elite units or corps, and specially assigned officers. Every qualified infantryman is given a blue aiguillete to wear on the right shoulder with his dress uniform to signify his completion of basic infantry training. Other countries around the world use them for various meanings, but they are most often used to denote aids to high ranking officials.

So, what do they mean when they appear on a DeMolay cape? I wish I had a simple answer for that because I've never been able to find a good reason as to why they are there. I've also noticed little consistency with how they are used by Chapters and Jurisdictions. When I put together the "good" set of PA DeMolay capes I choose to use three capes with aiguillettes for the Councilors to denote their higher responsibility, but an argument could be made that the Treasurer and Scribe should also wear them, as they are elected officers as well. There really is no simple answer. Many Chapters choose to have them on all of their capes, while other Chapters don't use any. It really is a mystery as to their purpose!

Does this mean that your Chapter should start or stop using them, or change who wears them? Absolutely not! This isn't an order, nor is it a suggestion. It's just some musings by a military buff who wondered why DeMolay chose to use an armed forces decoration on its capes.

So tell me, why do you think they are on the capes, and how does your Chapter use them?

Frat!~"Dad" Seth Anthony


  1. I never really thought to ask "why do we have this on there?" But it's a good question.

    As a recovering band geek, the Amsterdam High School Marching Ram uniform consisted of purple pants, white jacket, and a patch for your band medals. (yes, we had band medals)

    Underneath the left arm was a braid. Seniors were given gold braids to designate their Senior status. Back in the old days when my sister played seniors were also given golden feathers and golden berets depending on their instrumentation.

  2. Very interesting the publication. Join us brothers, Chapter DeMolay of Brasil. Fraternals Hugs

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