Shell jacket
The shell jacket is a garment
A jacket is a hip- or waist-length garment for the upper body. A jacket typically has sleeves, and fastens in the front. A jacket is generally lighter, tighter-fitting, and less insulating than a coat, which is outerwear...

 used as part of a military uniform
Military uniform
Military uniforms comprises standardised dress worn by members of the armed forces and paramilitaries of various nations. Military dress and military styles have gone through great changes over the centuries from colourful and elaborate to extremely utilitarian...

. It is a short jacket that reaches down to hip level. It was very common in the mid and late 19th century. The jacket was first created in Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...


The shell jacket was first introduced to European armies toward the end of the 18th Century. Up to then, soldiers, infantry, cavalry and artillery had worn open dress uniform coats with turn-back lapels over either coloured or white sleeved-waistcoats and breeches. The advent of closed uniform coatees, ie waist- length jackets with standing collars and tails, buttoned from throat to waist, meant that sleeved waistcoats could not be worn underneath and therefore fell redundant. However, in order to save damage or staining to dress coatees while on fatigue duties
Fatigue duty
Fatigue duty is the labor assigned to military men that does not require the use of arms. Parties sent on fatigue duty were known in English by the French term "detachemens" according to an 1805 military dictionary.- History :...

, etc, a new, relatively plain coloured waist-length jacket was introduced. The term “shell” jacket is of British origin, appearing during the 1790s, when Light Dragoons adopted a dark blue short jacket with a decorative sleeveless over- jacket, or “shell” on top. Though short-lived, the name stuck and was later to applied to short, sleeved fatigue jackets from about 1800. Through the British Army adopted coloured shell jackets (red for infantry and heavy cavalry, dark blue for artillery and light cavalry), Foot-Guards and Highland regiments adopted a white shell-jacket, referred to as a sleeved-waistcoat. During the first half of the 19th Century, the British Army wore dress coatees in battle against European or American enemies, but tended to wear shell jackets on colonial campaigns. However, the shell jacket was discontinued by the British in the 1870s (other than by certain cavalry regiments) in favour of a second, plainer skirted tunic. Guards and Highland regiments continued to wear white shell jackets for “walking out” until 1914.

The shell jacket became regulation for the US army in 1833, replacing the Napoleonic-era blue tail coat. Infantry jackets were sky blue with white piping and silver buttons. Cavalry uniforms were navy blue with orange (later yellow) piping and artillery uniforms were identical but with red piping; they had brass rather than silver buttons. The infantry uniform was worn during the Mexican War until 1851 when it was replaced with the dark blue frock coat with sky blue piping. Trousers with a fly front replaced the older-style flap-front design and kepi
The kepi is a cap with a flat circular top and a visor or peak . Etymologically, the word is a borrowing of the French képi, itself a respelling of the Alemannic Käppi: a diminutive form of Kappe, meaning "cap"....

s and Hardee hat
Hardee hat
The Hardee hat, also known as the Model 1858 Dress Hat and sometimes nicknamed the "Jeff Davis", was the regulation dress hat for enlisted men in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Hardee hat was also worn by Confederate soldiers. However, most soldiers found the black felt hat to...

s replaced the M1839 Wheel Cap. Cavalry and artillery shell jackets remained in use until after the US Civil War as they were more practical for mounted troops than the long frock (which was briefly introduced in 1851 but rejected).

The Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 adopted the jacket in 1861; the most famous are the Richmond
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 Depot's, RDI
Richmond Depot
The Richmond Depot is a Confederate-issued shell jacket to troops in the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.-History:Richmond Depot jackets were not issued to western Confederates or the Army of Tennessee.-Design:...

, RDII, and RDIII. Columbus
Columbus, Georgia
Columbus is a city in and the county seat of Muscogee County, Georgia, United States, with which it is consolidated. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 189,885. It is the principal city of the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area, which, in 2009, had an estimated population of 292,795...

 Depot, Department of Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, and Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

 Depot also were common famous suppliers. See Uniforms of the Confederate Military for more information.

During World War 2 Dwight D Eisenhower popularised a waist-length jacket based on British Battle Dress
Battle Dress
Battle Dress was the specific title of a military uniform adopted by the British Army in the late 1930s and worn until the 1960s. Several other nations also introduced variants of Battle Dress during the Second World War, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the...

. This was known as an Ike Jacket and after the war was adopted as a uniform by many US police forces. Blue denim
Denim is a rugged cotton twill textile, in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. This produces the familiar diagonal ribbing identifiable on the reverse of the fabric, which distinguishes denim from cotton duck. Denim has been in American usage since the late 18th century...

 versions became popular among urban workers, cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

s, truckers and teenagers. Today these jackets (often with patches, studs and badges added) are popular among biker
Motorcycling is the act of riding a motorcycle. A variety of subcultures and lifestyles have been built up around motorcycling.-Benefits:Robert M. Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a paean celebrating motorcycling...

s, greasers, metalheads and punk
Punk subculture
The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, and forms of expression, including fashion, visual art, dance, literature, and film, which grew out of punk rock.-History:...

s. In addition it plays a minor role in mainstream Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an fashion.

See also

  • Uniform of the Union Army
    Uniform of the Union Army
    The Uniform of the Union Army was widely varied and, due to limitations on supply of wool and other materials, based on availability and cost of materials during the United States Civil War.- Generalization :The standard U.S...

  • Uniform of the Confederate Army
  • Ike jacket
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