Fascinating history of the swagger stick in the British army:
"The swagger cane is inextricably linked with a specific Army policy that began whilst Queen Victoria was on the throne and that policy was intended to improve the lot and standing of the British Army soldier, one "Tommy Atkins". In both the 18th and 19th Centuries the British soldier was considered the "scum of the earth" (vide Wellington's Dispatches) who was invariably drunk, illiterate, ill-fed and often ill-clothed. Wives and families were treated little better and, all-in-all, his lot was so bad that no self respecting parent wanted their son to become a soldier.
Several initiatives were put in hand to begin remedying this state of affairs but in the interests of specific relevance to this thread and brevity I will focus on just one, appearance and standing. Soldiers began to be issued with a "walking out uniform" that was a specific order of dress intended to look smart, improve his pride in himself and look 'dashing' to the public at large. The uniform was intended to be smart, functional and relatively simple when compared with Full Dress. Such items as pill box hats and well fitting trousers or overalls together with close fitted tunics, shiny buttons and regimental titles were intended to help him 'look the part' and, included as an accessory to occupy his hands, was a swagger cane (later stick). These swagger canes were, as mentioned previously, of a reasonably common pattern, thin and tapering from one end with brass or nickel caps and metal ferrules and light in weight. They were not robust like a walking stick and could be swished and gesticulated in the air in a way that would be impossible with a heavy walking stick/cane. They were carried, out of barracks, by Other Ranks (ORs) only and became synonymous in the Public eye with being a smart soldier, so much so that the image of a soldier in walking out uniform, carrying his cane and escorting a pram-pushing Nanny in a public park became iconic in pre-Great War, Edwardian England. This public perception was to become significant when a mass, citizen Army was mobilised in an initial burst of enthusiastic effort in 1914-16. Almost as a rite of passage young men who had never worn a uniform began to have themselves photographed (often for their families as a keepsake). In their drab khaki uniform, they almost invariably are accompanied by that last vestige of perceived military panache, a swagger cane/stick.
After the 'war to end all wars' matters military understandably became unfashionable, as a nation weary with war returned to peacetime occupations. The Full Dress uniform that had been supposedly temporarily withdrawn in 1914, became permanently so, apart from the Sovereign's Household troops and soldiers were no longer given a specific walking out uniform but had to make do with the basic uniforms that they had. Swagger sticks were, for soldiers anyway, accordingly in abeyance for walking out. At the same time a fashion grew for officers to carry a cane rather than a stick when in what might be called barrack dress or undress uniform and these again took up a fairly standard pattern of either plain leather or cane/rattan or in smarter orders of dress, coloured cane and silver ends (this latter type had also been popular for a while in Victorian times when in barracks but not when walking out). Although generally a little shorter than the previous Other ranks pattern, these too became known as swagger canes/sticks (perhaps by chronological 'association', as officers did not 'swagger') and there were variations with 'whips' and for some, blackthorn sticks."