Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms


1857 Ottoman Albanian Mercenary Troops

Ottoman Albanian Mercenaries, mainly wore either green jackets edged in red tape and embroidery, or red jackets edged in yellow/gold tape and embroidery. This was combined with the fustanella (a long-skirted shirt (which later formed part of the Greek national costume) [1]. The combination of the red jackets edged in yellow/gold tape and embroidery, and the the long white 'Fustanella', became the basis of the uniform-costume of a corps of Bashi-Bazouk in the Turkish army (1861-1877).


[1] Count Amedeo Preziosi. 1857 Illustration of Albanians Mercenaries in the Ottoman Army. Published by Lemercier & Cie, Paris.

Bashi-Bazouks (1861-1877)

The word - Bashi-Bazouk literally meaning "free headed", "leaderless", "disorderly". The Bashi-Bazouk emerged as a military formation of irregular, volunteer and mercenary soldiers, intended to act as irregular skirmishing troops for the Ottoman army in time of war. They were notorious for their indiscipline, plundering, and brutality. The Ottoman military policy of using Bashi Bazouk came to an end during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, due to their excesses forcing the Ottoman government to abandon their use [1].

Bashi-Bazouk were largely organised as cavalry/infantry brigades of companies, under the command of a chief, with the rank of Bimbashi. Companies and squadrons were commanded by imperial army officers, with the rank of Yuzbashi (Captain), and Mulazim-i-evvel (Full-Lieutenant). Notwithstanding their 'irregular character' they appear to have been identified with specific type of uniform costume.

“The most adventurous-looking are the Bashi-Bazouks (i.e.’lost heads’), a wild body of Irregular troops who carry on war in their own fashion, and who are little amenable to discipline. These wear bizarre and wild-looking dresses, and are armed with long rifles.” [2]


[1] Bashi-bazouk. 1998 Encyclopædia Britannica.

[2] Koppen, F [Von]. Gleichen, E. Richard Knotel, R. (Illustrator) 1890 The Armies Of Europe Illustrated. London: William Clowes & Sons, Limited.

Bashi-Bazouks Officers (1861-1877)

Right - These two figures, from a set of uniforms of the Ottomam Imperial Court in the early 1860s show Bashi-Bazouk officers (Vinkhuizjen Collection). The overall commander of the Bashi-Bazouk, identified as the: 'Chief of the Bashi-Bazouk', is also showing wearing the sleeve  insignia for an 'Aide-de-camp to the Sultan', which is indicated by the crescent badge above his cuff rank insignia.


Right - An illustration of the 'full-dress' version of the 'Chief of the Bashi-Bazouk' uniform (Vinkhuizjen Collection). This particular illustration has been dated to the 1820s, and the label attached identifying this figure as the "Nizami djedid BIMBACHI Chef de Batailion de la 1st Reform du Sultan Mahmoud", with a hand-written attribution date of "1820" [1]. However, this identification is likely wrong. It can be identified as part of a set made by Jean Brindesi, and published by Lemercier, Paris, 1855. This particular illustration (Right), resembles the Chief of the Bashi-Bazouk, in the Imperial Army from the 1860s till the 1870s (Above).

Crimean War accounts mention, General Beatson, "wore a gorgeous uniform blazing with gold to impress the Turks. The Bashi-Bazouks wore similar uniforms.” [2] It was also said by Richard Francis Burton, "I was in the gorgeous Bashi-Bazouk uniform, blazing with gold, ... he said. Beaston’s jacket was said to be so stiff with gold embroidery that it could stand up of its own accord.” [3]


[1] The figure is included in a set of Jean Brindesi plates picturing the “Anciens Costumes Turcs de Constantinople, 1855”.

[2] Edward Rice. 2001 Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography. Da Capo Press.
[3] Mary S. Lovell. 1998 A Rage To Live, Hachette UK,

Bashi-Bazouk Uniforms

Right - Two figures, from the 1860s period, are discribed as "Zeibek", which is actually referring to the EFE: the leaders of Turkish irregular soldiers and guerrillas from the Aegean Region of Anatoliaextracted from the (Vinkhuizjen Collection). These two figures are wearing uniform-costumes which have clear similarities to the officer, and the officer and Chief of the Bashi-Bazouk (Above). Both wear a Fustanella: long skirted shirt, as well as breeches. Each figure has different zouave jacket lace details, one with a double-line boarder, and the other with a thick wavy line boarder, likely indicating different junior officer's ranks.

Right - Painted in 1869, illustrates the  flamboyant tall dome-shaped fez, wrapped in silk scarves commonly associated with the Bashi-Bazouk.

Bashi-Bazouk Corps Rank System (1861-1877)

The uniforms rank system was based on the 1861 pattern of cuff chevrons. Commanded by a Chief of the Bashi-Bazouk, in the Imperial Court (see discussion above), the remainder of the corps had a simplified rank system, consisting of the following officers:

Bashi-Bazouk Flag (1855)

The Bashi-Bazouk generally carried a green flag, on a red pole with a silver spear point. This detail can be seen in the Horace Vernet (1789 - 1863), painting 'A Bashi-Bazouk', based on a figure seen in the Crimean War.

Bashi-Bazouk Barracks Uniforms

Right - Barracks of the Bashi-Bazouks at the Chibouk Chular Khan, Adrianople (From 'The Illustrated London News'). In barracks, the Corps of Bashi-Bazouk wore simple plain uniforms, with fez. It was only in the field, or on patrol that the Bashi-Bazouk 'dressed-up', in their tall hats etc in order to shock their opponents.

Bashi-Bazouk Corps Mounted Contingents

Right - The mounted contingent of Bashi-Bazouk. showing their elaborate costumes. Extracted from "Les Bachi-Bouzouks". Printed on border: "Il est interdit de vendre séparément cette reproduction." "Copyright 1897 by Jean Boussod, Manzi, Joyant & Co." "Souvenirs de Crimée, page 130 ... July 1897." The horse furniture, used by the mounted contingent of Bashi-Bazouk company, were elaborate 'medieval-fantasy' kits, with red cord horse aprons, intending to shock opponents. 

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