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Poldark Style – Part 1

April 21, 2015

Period drama alert! Have you been watching the new BBC adaptation of Poldark? I wouldn’t miss my date with it each Sunday. Gorgeous Cornish sunsets, much thundering up and down on handsome stallions, as fine a set of manly muscles as you could wish for and beautiful women with charming accents.


Poldark Style – Part 1: uniforms and hats

But while most may be glued to the screen, waiting for Ross to take his top off again, I prefer it when he keeps his clothes on. His fine linen waistcoat with many covered buttons is quite a thing of beauty. I regularly hope for a glimpse of Verity’s lovely silver-grey outfit, which she wears to go shopping and visiting in, and Elizabeth has quite a few great outfits too.

So I thought that a quick post on Poldark style was in order, or, in other words, late 18th Century fashion.

Ross Poldark’s uniform

In the Poldark books, the first of which were written in 1945, Ross Poldark returns from the American War of Independence in 1783. No clue in the TV series about what, exactly, he was doing there: waiting to acquire his fetching scar, perhaps. Once he’s got that, he’s off home but on getting back after three years his sweetheart, Elizabeth, has upped and engaged herself to his cousin, Francis Poldark. Good for her, no use sitting around moping for a fellow, is there?


Here’s Ross in uniform. Note that it is red, which means it’s a British uniform, a slight surprise since Ross is rather against all the taxes which bleed the British underclass dry, which is exactly what the American War of Independence was about: the British heavily taxing goods that came to America.

Detail of Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull

Detail of Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull

For a comparison on how the uniforms really looked, here’s a painting showing a British General (red coat) surrendering to an American one (blue coat) in a gentlemanly fashion.

Hats for men in Poldark

18th Century Men's hats.

18th Century Men’s hats.


Ross Poldark likes to let his curls frizz freely, but tames them with a tricorne hat worn rakishly in company. This is not because he wants to be a pirate.


The cocked hat, with the brim turned up was extremely fashionable – his father in law, Charles Poldark, wears it too, so does Captain Blamey, and even Jud Paynter, his terrible servant, has one.


It is known as the “continental style”, because young men who had travelled around Europe started affecting the trends worn on the continent, to show just how well-travelled they were. However, it was soon worn by those less well-travelled, too – I’m sure that Jud would proclaim it “T’int right, t’int fair, t’int fit, t’int proper!” to step outside his own village.

Top hats and velvet turbans

No respectable man would be seen outdoors hatless, and this convention persisted in Britain well into the 20th Century.


Francis Poldark chooses an enormous moleskin top hat, George Warleggan has a version too, and special mention should be made of the unexpectedly lovely velvet turban that Cary Warleggan, the money-lender, wears at home to relax in. The elderly Charles Poldark also has a velvet relaxing-at-home cap, red this time.


Wigs abound, and whilst most haircuts aren’t exciting, don’t you just love the splendid Regency hairdo that George Warleggan sports, all quiff and curls?


To be continued… Next up, the women of Poldark!




Poldark has a quick wash.

The Characters of Poldark (courtesy BBC)

Ross in Uniform. Mammoth Screen – Photographer: Mike Hogan

Full length Ross in Uniform. Image via BBC.

Ross in his Tricorne hat. Image via BBC

Charles Poldark in a tricorne hat. Image via BBC.

Captain Blamey in his tricorne. Mammoth Screen – Photographer: Mike Hogan

Jud Paynter, the really rubbish servant. Mammoth Screen – Photographer: Mike Hogan

Francis Poldark in a huuuge top hat. via BBC.

George Warleggan in a top hat. Courtesy BBC.

I assure you, the turban is lovely and made of velvet. (via BBC)

George Warleggans hairdo. Image via BBC.