Further detailed and exhaustive research has led to the rediscovery of this vital piece of Little Egypt history.

Apart from some fascinating insights, this document, dating from long before this website, proves once and for all that

GREEN has no place in the colours of Little Egypt.

I rest my case.

Neville models standard Little Egypt gear Ancient Egyptians

"In all their fine array..."

... now to the sound of distant fidle, pype and drum

Our men in motley clothe and garter come

Once to the tune they tuche theyre garland-hattes

And once to the maydes, and once with theyre dancing battes.

Anon.? 15th C.

There is no doubt that the "uniform" of the modern Morris Man of Little Egypt is an odd mixture of the very old, the not-so-old and the quite new.

The basic clothing of white shirt, trousers, socks and black shoes is probably no more than a development of ordinary working clothes, perhaps a smock, under-trousers and heavy-duty boots. There is some suggestion that the trousers may be a reference to some early form of underclothing, but we pay no heed to this. The coloured neckerchief is just that: a vital part of country working garb.

The waist-coat (wuskitt, wescutt) is likewise probably derived from ordinary day-wear, but is almost certainly part of the Morris tradition of gently mocking our betters: in this case, the gentry; hence the gradual decoration with badges and slogans. Ordinary farm workers could not normally afford such finery. Looking further back into the history of clothing, there may also be a reference here to the squire's tabard of Mediaeval chivalry, with the badges being a base form of the Knight's heraldic devices.

The cross-belts or baldrics derive too from Mediaeval military dress. The original baldric, crossing from shoulder to opposite hip, was intended to carry a weapon or, perhaps, a bugle. Our practice is less belligerent, and our baldrics are unlikely to carry anything more threatening than a tankard.

Our "garland-hatte" can be viewed in many different ways. At one level it is merely another gentle dig at "they posh folks from the hall and rectory".
At another, it is a development of ordinary working apparel, jazzed up to look different. But there is another level of interpretation which links us back to those pagan pre-Christian rites which are certainly a part of the Morris story. The "Green Man" is a familiar, but frequently misused, figure in English folk tradition. Representations of this spirit of the woods and fertility can be found throughout England; the stained glass of Long Melford church contains a fine example. We carry forward the idea of the living wood, and some take great pride in the elaborate way in which their hats are decorated.

Our Colours

"Three blues and a yellow" needs no introduction. The full symbolism is lost in the depths of antiquity, but we are persuaded by the "sun on the water" explanation, so appropriate for this part of Suffolk. We also feel the colours are an appropriate representation of our dancing day, and the dancing season, capturing, as they do, the sky in all its moods and at all times of the day, and the English summer at its best. An alternative interpretation suggests, perhaps flippantly, that the "three blues and a yellow" is, in fact, a corruption of more basic Morris practice, but somehow "free booze and a bellow" does not carry the same romantic feeling.

Page maintained by Stephen Clarke, steve@little-egypt.org.uk. Copyright(c) . Created: 12/07/2003 Updated: 15/09/2003