Aiguillette is an old French word for needle or tag, and refers to the metal tag at the end of the cords. Its origin is the same as shoe laces: both originate in the medieval period for tying clothes, shoes and armour. They are most commonly braided from gold or silver wire and feature pointed metal tips. Aiguillettes come in many different styles, ranging from the gold-wire cord aiguillettes worn by Equerries and Aides de Camp to the Monarch, to simpler corded aiguillettes worn by lower ranks and bandsmen in full dress. With the pristine detailing of the braids, aiguillettes are one of the more desirable features of a Full Officer Dress Uniform.
In the 17th Century buff leather coats were worn as armour. With these being up to 5mm thick, buttons were impracticable, so leather or cord ‘points’ were used to fasten the coat. The sleeves of the coat were also made of buff leather and laced to the top of the arm hole. The ends being knotted off and the tags left to dangle.
After the civil wars it became fashionable to have bunches of ribbons worn at the shoulder sometimes in the form of bows with tagged ends. This fashion died out in England but continued in the French court dress of Louis the 14th and 15th into the early 18th century. This style was revived by the British Army in the form of a knot with three loops, as a corporal’s badge of rank. In this form it was made of worsted or silk cord of regimental colour, with the pointed tags in the same metal as the buttons and coat lace. They were also worn in this fashion by staff officers in metal cord. This style continued for staff officers up to 1814 when the French style was introduced. This had evolved in the French court and army into the style we now recognise but in lighter cord and made in worsted, silk or metal cord. The modern heavy cord style is an elaborate Victorian invention.