They’re up there with double-decker buses, red phone booths and Big Ben when it comes to quintessentially British things, but the uniforms sported by Queen Elizabeth II’s guards weren’t designed to look aesthetically pleasing. They were devised as essential accoutrements of battle against the United Kingdom’s enemies during the 1800s.
So why do these guards wear tall black hats and conspicuous red tunics?
As hard as it may be to believe, the uniform was supposed to intimidate opposing armies.
“The idea was that you made your foot soldiers look taller and therefore more fearsome,” said Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator based in London. “They used to fulfill a practical need for a foot soldier in battle. They were used when fighting the French in the Napoleonic wars. In fact, Napoleon’s Imperial Guard wore them, too.”