The pantalon rouge (French for 'red trousers') were an integral part of the uniform of the French army from 1829 to 1914. Some parts of the Kingdom of France's army already wore red trousers or breeches but the French Revolution saw the introduction of white trousers for infantrymen. Following the 1814 Bourbon Restoration white breeches or blue trousers were worn but red trousers for infantry were adopted in 1829 to encourage the French rose madder dye-growing industry.
By the early 20th century other European nations had adopted drab
During the later Kingdom of France uniforms varied significantly between regiments but red breeches were worn by generals, members of the royal household, most of the dragoons and the Maréchaussée (until 1763). Some infantry regiments wore red breeches but most wore blue, white or grey. After the revolution breeches were replaced with trousers in the army and during the French Revolutionary Wars infantrymen wore white trousers. Infantry wore a number of colours of trouser during the Napoleonic Wars but red was worn only by cavalrymen of the Imperial Guards of Honour, the lancers, three regiments of hussars and the 3rd Regiment of Scouts of the Imperial Guard.
The pantalon rouge were adopted by the French Army on 26 July 1829, to encourage the rose madder dye-growing industry in France. By the 20th century the synthetic dye alizarin, imported from Germany, was used to colour the pantalon rouge. The French infantry wore the same pattern of trouser from 1867 to 1914. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 the trousers became synonymous with the French army such that civilians referred to soldiers as pantalon rouge.
With changes in battlefield technology and tactics comparable European armies had switched from colourful uniforms to more
After observing the actions of the 1912–13 Balkan Wars the French minister of war Adolphe Messimy, well-regarded as a humane and professional army officer, proposed replacing the pantalon rouge, red kepis and blue tunics with less conspicuous colours. Messimy's proposal was for a uniform of so-called tricolore fabric, woven from a mix of 60% blue wool, 30% red wool and 10% white wool.
The proposal was fiercely opposed in the press which objected to the army wearing "muddy, inglorious" colours; the
The infantryman's uniform, including the pantalon rouge, was especially visible in the yellow-cropped fields that were fought over in August and September 1914, contributing to the high French casualty rate.
A poster for a 1904 operetta entitled Le Pantalon Rouge and depicting a French army officer
French light infantry uniform, 1830
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