An Aiguillette (from French “aiguillette”, small needle) is an ornamental braided cord most often worn on uniforms, but may also be observed on other costumes such as academic dress, where it will denote an honour. Originally, the word “aiguillette” referred to the lacing used to fasten plate armour together. As such, a knot or loop arrangement was used which sometimes hung from the shoulder.
Aiguillettes should not be confused with lanyards, which are cords also worn from the shoulder (or around the neck), but do not have the pointed aiguillette tips and are usually of fibre rather than gold or silver wire, and often not braided.
There are four types of aiguillette worn by the British Armed Forces.
Aiguillettes (1st Class or Royal) are of gold-wire cord and are worn on the right shoulder by, among others, admirals of the fleet, field marshals and marshals of the RAF; honorary physicians, honorary chaplains, honorary surgeons and aides-de-camp to the Sovereign; equerries to members of the royal family. Some appointments carry the privilege of wearing miniature Sovereign’s Cypher on the points of the aiguillettes. These aiguillettes are also worn by commissioned officers of the Household Cavalry (in full dress only). They are worn on the left shoulder in full dress by warrant officers of the Household Cavalry.
Aiguillettes (2nd Class or Board) are of gold and dark blue, crimson or light blue depending if worn by Royal Navy, Army or RAF officers and are worn on the right shoulder by, among others, military members of the Defence Board and each Service Board and the personal staff of governors. A simplified version with no coils is worn on the left shoulder by staff corporals, corporals of horse and lance corporals of horse of the Household Cavalry in full dress.
Aiguillettes (3rd Class or Staff) are of gold and dark blue, crimson or light blue depending if worn by Royal Navy, Army or RAF officers. They are worn on the left shoulder by, among others, attachés, assistants and aides-de-camp.
Simple aiguillettes are worn by lance corporals of the Household Cavalry and by Bandsmen of Dragoon Guards and Dragoon regiments in full dress.