What did Viking Men Wear? by Rob Shackleford
For more on Vikings, check out the links of previous Viking Blogs below:
Rather than the costumes we think of today with horned helmets and studded shields they have become famous for, most Vikings appear to have favoured fur collars, shell-shaped brooches and capes.
The Viking male often wore a tunic, trousers and a cloak. The fashion is quite simple and elegant, a dress common to most European peoples of the time. Maybe we should adopt it.
The tunic was reminiscent of a long-armed shirt without buttons and might go down to the knees. Over his shoulders the man wore a cloak, which was fastened with a brooch that could sometimes be ornate. The cloak was gathered over the arm that he drew his sword or axe with. In this way it was possible to see whether a Viking was right- or left-handed.
We do not know a great deal about the shape of the trousers. They were perhaps a type of plus fours, which were gathered up under the knee. The plus fours must have required socks or puttees wound around the shins. Puttees are a variety of legwarmers in which a long narrow piece of material is wound around the legs to give warmth. As footwear, men wore leather shoes or boots.
As their clothes had no pockets or elastic, belts or a string fastened around the waist held their clothes up. On his belt, the man might carry a purse or knife. The purse could contain various items, like a strike-a-light flint and iron, comb, nail cleaner, gaming pieces and silver coins.
Some men also wore caps, which were either pointed or had rounded crowns. The caps were made of material or skin.
When it came to materials, the men wore the same materials as the women. The inner layer usually consisted of a linen kirtle – a long shirt which the men pulled over their heads. On the outside, the typical Viking man wore a woolen coat.
Men usually wore a hat whereas women could choose between a small hat and a scarf.
Perhaps rather unsurprisingly men’s underwear was made mostly from linen rather wool. This was because linen was far more comfortable on the skin than wool, although, some of those in lower social circles most likely had no option but to wear wool because it was far cheaper.
In the winter, the priority was to keep warm, so it would be very common for the Vikings to wear things like wool socks, scarves or even mittens.
They were also partial to bright colours, with patterns and bands of fabric stitched onto clothing as trends changed. Blue and red were popular colours throughout the Viking Age. In general, they all wore colourful clothes with patterns and sewn-on ribbons. Archaeologists have come across examples of colours covering the entire colour palette.
The more intense the color, the higher the value. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue describes the kingly gifts Sygtrigg Silkenbeard bestowed on his poet:
“The king gave Gunnlaug his own new suit of scarlet clothes, an embroidered tunic, a cloak lined with exquisite furs, and a gold bracelet that weighed a mark.”
Most evidence for Viking clothing comes from the tombs of wealthy Vikings, who were adorned with furs, silver, gold and silk.
For more Viking Fashion links try these:
Resurgence of interest in Viking clothes even today:
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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