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History of Gamekeeper and Forester Uniforms

Uniforms form the essential part of the gamekeeper and forester trade. Few may know about the history of gamekeeper and forester uniforms in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and about changes the unifoms have gone through up to today and that reflect the particulaer period in time and social sphere of the aforementioned professions. We discussed the history of gamekeeper and forester uniforms with an expert who is well-nown throughout Europe,Dr. Ing. Jaroslav Pospíšil, owner of the SILVAJAGD company and a Moravian Master of the Royal Order of Moravian knights of Saint Rostislav and Kolumban.

At What time did the first historical reference to a gamekeeper, or more precisely to a forester uniform on our territory appear?

The oldest reference to huntsman uniforms is from the beginning of the 15th century. At that time, forestry still could not be considered a purposeful activity. This reference was recorded in a document or, to be more precise, in a law called Geheimes Jagdbuch (Secret Hunting Book) that was enforced by the Holy Roman Emperor Maxmilian I. (1459–1519). The date reference of this document was not preserved. However, it is very interesting that in contains a description of what a huntsman uniform of the imperial personnel should look like. The document defines huntsman coats to be in the colour of beech bark, while the collars, facing, lining and wristbands are to be green. These clothes were solely for hunting personnel, nobody else was allowed to wear it. This document is the first historically attested reference about a huntsman uniform. It is also very interesting that the unification of military uniforms did not take place until the Thirty Years’ War. Military uniforms are therefore two hundred years younger than the first reference about a huntsman uniform.

What determined the design and colours of gamekeeper uniforms in this period?

Let us talk about the colours first – references about huntsman uniforms show that three basic colours were used: green – the colour of forest, brown – the colour of earth and grey – the colour of water (fishermen also call it ”pike grey”). Uniforms of these colours were worn by hunting personnel on the lands owned by nobility. As far as the design of the uniforms it concerned, it was determined by the contemporary fashion as well as by the subject of business of forest owners. I will further explain with an example: near Hluboká nad Vltavou, I have met the father and the son of the Stropnický family, the dynasty of forestry, which has 14 generations of foresters. A spring of knowledge about the history of forestry and gamekeeping. Relics preserved by the Stropnický family confirm my thesis. This hunting personnel had uniforms completely different from the hunting personnels of other aristocratic families. Since the princes of Paar from Bechyně in South Bohemia run the Imperial post, the gamekeepers and foresters operating on lands belonging to this aristocratic family had uniforms almost identical to postman uniforms. Only the forestry personnel had a different marking.

You have talked about three colours: green, brown and grey. Why black colour prevails on the huntsman and forester uniforms from the beginning of the 19th century?

This has a rational explanation. Forests were then managed by mining industry thad needed timber frames for mines. Mining officers wore black uniforms and I assume that in this period the unification of colours of uniforms took place. Gamekeepers and foresters put on black uniforms, too. Green was only on their wristbands and stand-up collars. These were decorated by ornaments of oak twigs, acorns or spruce twigs as symbols of their professional affiliation. As far as the aristocratic affiliation is concerned, it was being revealed by coats of arms depicted on buttons. Uniforms of ordinary gamekeeper employees from this period were not preserved. That is understandable, because these uniforms had to be worn until total wear and tear. However, uniforms of the hugher nobility were preserved, Their clothes – including gamekeeper clothes – copied fashion of the royal court. The rank of a uiform user was expressed by means of coller ornamentation, buttons and troser stripes. The rank was also differentiated by the colour of the ornamentatiom: the highest rank officers had golden, minor officers had silver and the personnel had green colour.

When did the green colour ”return” to the gamekeeper and forester uniforms?

After the revolutionary year of 1848, hunting small game became available for the wider public. Even amateurs – farmers and city gamekeepers – were allowed to hunt. This was reflected on hunting clothes which regained its green colour. Forester uniforms of employees of the government forests came into existence after the declaration of Czech Republic in 1918.