Off we go into the hazy grey world of vague historical fashion influenced by who knows what and no one remembers exactly why, where everyone’s opinion is just that, an opinion. I hold no more authority than anyone else but I’ve done a little digging and you can look at my resources then decide for yourself. Today’s feature will be on the bolero jacket. What is a bolero jacket and how does it differ from the Zouave? The terms today, as well in the past, are completely interchangeable. Who cares? Only the extreme fashion snob or historian give a rat’s patootie. There is actually a difference, only mostly because the bolero became redefined in the mid-20th century. Before then, fashion plates almost never show a what we call a bolero but instead show a Zouave and call it a bolero. I’m putting on my fashion snob hat and will help you see the subtle differences. For a little back history, I did a brief post on the Zouave early in the year here .
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The Zouave Jacket
From what I’ve casually read on the internet from several sources, the Zouave’s were north Africans living in Morocco and Algeria. I read that after the French invaded north Africa, some of the fighters offered service (or were offered service) with the French in 1830. One article states the French had such poor skirmishing techniques, left over from the dreaded Jacobian influence, that the royal family hired the Zouave’s to teach the French troops how to be successful (1). I don’t know how authentic this is because it was the only article in several claiming this romanticized beginning. The other articles talked about two units of Zouave auxiliary battalions being formed in north Africa by the French from either conquered or soon to be conquered locals (2)(3)(4). Some articles say these fighters became the French Foreign Legion, ooh la la. I suspect the articles all got their initial research from the same point, as they were very similar in their claims to how the Zouave regiments started. Reports vary but in general, after several successes, more units were formed, several other countries liked what they saw and hired experienced fighters to add to their elite forces and voila! we have awesome fighting forces spread out all over the colonies by the mid-1800s.
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