A baldric was a broad belt that was not worn around the waist. Instead, it was strapped over the shoulder; it extended diagonally across the chest, usually from the right shoulder to the left hip. Baldrics were essential attire for soldiers or anyone else who carried swords, which in the seventeenth century was nearly every gentleman. Baldrics were worn on top of the doublet, but usually under any jacket or cloak. They were the equivalent of a gun's holster, in that they featured an attachment which held the sword in place at the wearer's hip.
Baldrics date back to the time of the Roman Empire (27 B.C.E. –476 C.E. ) and were standard gear for most European armies from the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries. A practical baldric was made of leather, but those owned by wealthier gentlemen in the seventeenth century were often decorated with jewelry or featured gold trimming. Men might also wear decorations on baldrics to indicate membership in a military unit. When the baldric was worn without a sword it was generally called a sash.
Across the centuries, baldrics made of cloth were worn by civilians and used to carry bags. They also were worn by members of marching bands, whose instruments were attached to them as they walked in parades. Baldrics have also been used for ceremonial purposes. For example, the drum major of the United States Military Academy band wears a special baldric that is lined with red trimming and features a crossed drumsticks logo, reflecting the fact that the first American soldier-musicians were drummers.
Cohen, Richard A. By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions. New York: Random House, 2002.
Oakeshott, R. Ewart. A Knight and His Weapons. 2nd ed. Chester Springs, PA: Dufour Editions, 1997.