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Plume making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Plume making (military)




Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance From early Bronze Age worldwide
Area currently practised West London, Devon
Origin in the UK Plumes were worn from the Bronze Age and were at their height in the late 18th Century in Britain.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 2
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
There will be re-enactors and living history enthusiasts making plumes.



Since the first cave man put a feather on his head, plumes have had a significant role in military costume. They are a key element in full dress military parades and inspections by dignitaries and royals, heavy horse decoration, weddings and funerals, and marching bands.

There are still currently around sixty different patterns of plume worn by the British Army.

The hackle is a clipped plume or short spray of coloured feathers that is attached to a military headdress, with different colours being associated with particular regiments. In the British Army and the armies of some Commonwealth countries, the hackle is worn by some infantry regiments, especially those designated as fusilier regiments and those with Scottish and Northern Irish origins.



  • Weaving horse hair
  • Mounting and sewing feathers.


Local forms

Plumes are worn by many of the world’s armies from Ghana to Australia. There are still currently around sixty different patterns of plume worn by the British Army.



  • Dyeing horse hair and feathers
  • Metal component making


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Brexit has had an effect on orders with some copies being made overseas and imported by U.K. based uniform makers.
  • Training: There are no established training routes for plume making.
  • Raw materials: Some feathers are subject to concerns around ethical sourcing. Military plumes made today will use feathers that are a by-product of food production and other cruelty-free sources.
  • Loss of skills: There are so few people remaining with the skills that there is significant risk that these skills will not be passed on to the next generation.


Support organisations



Craftspeople currently known

  • Louis Chalmers, The Plumery – The Plumery manufactures the entire range of the British Armies plumes in humanely gathered horse hair, yak, wool and feather, along with the Lance Cap and supporting metalwork.
  • Jaffé Feathers – Makes feather plumes.


Training providers

There are no formal training options for plume making.


Other information