Walking sticks were still seen as an implement of fashion from 1700 to 1800. However, we see the rise of the use of the gadget cane. Walking sticks also were used as political statements. Also, cane etiquette became generally accepted.
The sword cane, introduced in the 17th century, was still used by gentlemen in the 18th century. Carrying swords was no longer fashionable, but walking sticks were. Combining the sword and the walking stick answered the gentleman’s need for protection and the conventions of fashion. While the 18th century was considered “safer” than the 17th century, many gentlemen still felt it necessary to carry this fashionable weapon. In fact, the popularity of these sword canes peaked around the mid-18th century, but they were still used into Victorian times.
After the adoption of the sword cane, which is a kind of gadget cane, other gadget canes became popular, such as walking sticks outfitted with telescopes and pedometers. Additionally, physicians carried gadget canes in the 18th century, and although they were fashionable, they were also functional, serving as an inconspicuous way to carry medicine and tools. A physician carrying a physician’s bag was more likely to be recognized and harassed, as he was identified as an individual who carried drugs. Physicians also employed walking sticks as a preventative measure to contracting disease. The head of the cane contained potions and powders that could be inhaled and were believed to keep the doctor safe from disease. As they entered the rooms of the sick, they would bang the shafts on the ground to diffuse the compounds into the air. Additionally, these walking sticks could also contain flasks of liquor that the physician would partake of as another protective measure.
Austria and Hungary can lay claim to some gadget canes themselves. They developed a cane that carried a flute. They can also be given the credit for developing a walking stick that was made up of three adjustable sections. In the lowest section was a quill pen with ink and paper, in the second section a measuring rod, and in the third section a telescope.
Unique practices emerged because of the use of canes. For instance, in England, one had to procure a license to carry such an implement. Here is a sample of such a license:
You are hereby required to permit the bearer of this cane to pass and repass through the streets and suburbs of London, or any place within ten miles of it without let or molestation; provided that he does not walk with it under his arm, brandish it in the air, or hang it on a button; in which case it shall be forfeited; and I hereby declare it forfeited to anyone who shall think it safe to take it from him.
Signed………………………………… (Lester, Oerke, & Westerman, 2004)
Also in England, a group of young people imported some Italian fashions and started the “Macaroni Club” around 1772. Why “macaroni”? Macaroni was a little-known food in England at this time and young people called anything that was fashionable “macaroni”. Contrary to the name, the Macaroni Club was not a formal club; the name simply characterized those who wore a very high-combed hairstyle topped by a small hat that was raised with the cane. This walking stick was very long and decorated with wide silk neck scarves. This fashion ended with the French Revolution.
In other parts of the world, walking sticks were symbols of the political climate. In France, aside from changes in the cane shaft length (lengthening during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XIV, and shortening again in the late 18th century), the revolution in France brought a sort of equality to all in relation to the cane, no longer only an implement for the nobility. After 1789, the bourgeois, along with the nobility, carry a walking stick and even salute each other with it. Also during this period, the cane as a political statement is used by the “Incroyables”, or those of particular stylish, “incredible” dress. They carried a twisted cane that was generally looked upon as an ugly stick. This walking stick was sometimes called “executive power”. Indeed, some of the Incroyables, who came be known as “Muscadins” because of their heavy musk perfume, organized into bands and prowled the streets, using these canes to harass revolutionary Jacobins.
Generally, during the 18th century walking sticks were in great demand. With canes almost universally popular, there became a universal cane etiquette that users of walking sticks adhered to. For example, one never carried a cane under the arm, and cane was never carried when visiting people of consequence. Also, one was not to use the cane to write in the dust, to lean on the walking stick when standing, or while walking to trail his walking stick (Lester, Oerke, & Westerman, 2004).
Essentially, walking sticks continued to be popular from 1700 to 1800. Not only were they a fashion accessory, but there was also a return to functionality. That is, canes were used not just to compliment attire, but as tools of convenience and political statements. Finally, canes played such a relevant role that an etiquette, or guidelines for their use, was developed.
(2004). In K. M. Lester, B. V. Oerke, & H. Westerman, Accessories of Dress: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (pp. 388-401). New York: Dover Publications.