Before the outbreak of the War of 1812, British infantry regiments in Canada wore white wool knee breeches and tall black wool gaiters for most duties, with white linen trousers reserved for fatigues, drills, and wear over the breeches when on the march. During the winter months grey ‘overalls’ – cut straight or of the tongued ‘gaiter-trouser’ pattern – were often worn as a concession to the climate.
Grey trousers and matching short gaiters were adopted in 1811 for British troops on active service in Europe, and in turn were adopted as the default legwear by all troops serving in Canada upon the commencement of hostilities with the United States in June 1812. Some regiments, however, had previously beenshipped breeches and gaiters from Britain, yet most obtained grey trousers by early1813. Soldiers continued to receive breeches, tall gaiters and white trousers throughout the War of 1812 as part of their annual clothing issue, although these were seldom worn outside of major garrisons.
Towards early 1815 regulations for the wearing of these garments were formalised. Breeches and tall gaiters remained in use for full dress (until abolished in 1823); grey trousers were worn on active service, in winter and for fatigues, while white trousers were worn in hot weather.