I went to visit the Museum for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire (SOFO) this morning, completely ignorant about military history and uniforms and not knowing what to expect. It is currently located in a large room in Woodstock which was probably intended to be an open plan office. It was full of people researching, having meetings, visitors and staff, all surrounded by lots of military objects, in cases, on tables, on shelves, hanging up. There is stuff everywhere! And they have offsite storage! Staff are gearing up to a big move to a purpose built museum at the end of the garden of The Oxfordshire Museum, just down the road. The plans pinned up on their walls look very exciting.
So, I wanted to find out what they had in terms of headwear and footwear and I can tell you that it is all about the headwear. They must have at least 100 hats, helmets and caps judging by a brief look at their database. What I found the most visually interesting were the wonderful spike helmets, busbys with huge plumes and quirky shakos. Stanley my guide was very knowledgeable about how they were all influenced by the styles of other countries. Spiked helmets were of course a German idea, the busby was inspired by the Hungarians and shakos, particularly the high ones, were stolen from the French. He backed this up with his expert knowledge of when these countries were seen as powerful and it was at this time that the English stole their fashions. Again this comes back to the idea of transformation that I touched on in my last post. Did the soldiers of the time use these new hats as a way of inspiring them to be more successful in their battles? Just like a Native American puts feathers in his headdress to become as wise and powerful as the eagle, it is a little bit of magic!
The SOFO website has most of their objects on so please search here if you want to see examples of the headwear I’ve mentioned.