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Viking clothing: what were the Vikings wearing?


Viking woman in typical costume of the time

Was there such a thing as Viking fashion? We are gathering clues from the sagas with archaeological evidence to bring you this guide to Viking clothing.

Have you ever wondered what kind of clothes the Vikings wear? How did they live in such harsh environments and function well before modern fabrics and designs?

Much remains a mystery and cannot be answered definitively. However, this article will bring together what we know about Viking clothing.

How do we know anything about Viking clothing?

We know very little because of the limited archaeological evidence that is available. In most cases, materials and fabrics do not keep very well. When fragments are recovered, they are usually very small and often damaged.

However, we can also tap into written evidence such as Nordic sagas. With archaeological evidence, we can reconstruct a fairly accurate image of Viking clothing.

Viking warrior in typical clothes holding two axes

The influence of the environment

During the Viking Age, the environment was cold, harsh and unforgiving. It was these conditions that naturally influenced the type of clothing that the Vikings wore.

Read more: Why did the Viking Age begin?

Cold and hostile conditions meant that all clothing had to keep them warm and protect them from the elements during the colder months. But they also had to be practical and flexible to wear for the daily tasks they had to perform.

It is generally considered that the Germanic populations of Northern Europe wore the same clothes or clothes very similar to the Vikings. There is a distinction to be made between the clothes that men wore and the types of clothes that women wore. Their clothes were also influenced by money and social importance.

Viking hierarchies: clothing as a status symbol

In Viking times, there was a social hierarchy. Those of high standing, generally those with more silver coins, were able to obtain more beautiful and better quality clothing.

You may not think Vikings care too much about fashion, but it is said to have played a role. First, we dressed to show our position in the community.

The higher their social status, the better the quality of the garment and better presented. Second, some Vikings would dress to appeal to the opposite sex.

Colors and patterns

You would think that Viking clothing was made just to be practical, dull and boring, to match the often dark and gray land in which they lived. In reality, experts believe they were of this.

Woman posing with Viking in bright red clothing and furs

Many of their clothes are thought to be bright and colorful. In addition to black and white, the Vikings also had the choice between blue, red, yellow and various other colors. But some colors will have been more difficult to find than others.

Read more: Viking funerals and funeral rituals

Perhaps one of the most important colors in terms of meaning was the color red. It was a precious color for prestige and in terms of monetary value too. It was one of the most expensive colors because it came from the root of madder, a plant which was not originally from Scandinavia. Instead, the Vikings had to trade it and barter it for other European tribes, which increased its value.

Some garments also had intricate patterns. We can see in the details found on things like weapons and even the longship how much the Vikings liked to decorate things. And this indicates that the clothes are far from simple and ordinary, perhaps in accordance with social hierarchy or importance.

What were the Viking men wearing?

The diapers were also large in Viking times. Whether men build ships, hunt or attack, it is important for them to keep warm during their physical work.

Basic clothing was probably lighter and short-sleeved during the warmer months and thicker and longer during the winter night. The colors here are not known, but it is likely that they differ from the colors mentioned above.

In addition to this base coat, the men were a tunic. This outer garment was most likely slightly thicker and draped long to the knees. Some tunics may also have been modeled or worn with symbols significant to larger members.

Viking warriors in the water

Men’s pants were relatively simple. They had no pockets and could be both loose or tight. They were made from local wool or linen.

Unsurprisingly, men’s underwear was made mostly of linen rather than wool. Indeed, linen was much more comfortable on the skin than wool, although some of the members of lower social circles probably had no choice but to wear wool because it was much cheaper.

Finally, almost as the Vikings predicted a fashion trend in the 1980s, men also wore leggings or woolen wraps from the knees to the ankles and feet.

Viking women’s clothing

Turning our attention to women, we can see some differences. They were made largely from the same materials, wool and linen, but were cut differently.

For women too, it was important to keep warm. A base layer consisted of a linen undershirt that extended from the shoulder to the ankle. This layer was either simple or modeled according to the Viking community to which we belonged.

viking woman dress

On top of that, there was probably a woolen dress with straps which was slightly shorter. The two layers were attached together at the straps by two iron or bronze pins. If a woman was of very high standing, she could have had gold pins.

Neither men’s nor women’s clothing contained buttons. They also didn’t have practical additions like pockets. But hoods or some sort of woolen or linen headgear would have been common in winter.

Read more: Popular Viking Names

Silk garments were available, but because they had to be imported over great distances, they were not much used, perhaps reserved only for elite members of Viking societies.

Viking warrior clothes

The types of clothing that men wore in battle were much more robust. Much thicker capes or tunics were preferred, perhaps made from something like sheepskin or another animal, for those long journeys. In this case, it was essential to stay warm before a battle or raid.

In battle, a sturdy leather belt around the waist would keep the guns in place, but also meant they were handy if they needed them. The belt is said to contain an ax, a sword and other small instruments used in battle and looting.

The men would also wear thick leather body protection to protect themselves and have a shield to protect themselves from the blows of the sword or the blows of ax. Generally, however, with the exception of the metal helmets (no horns, of course), the Vikings did not have excessively heavy clothing or armor, largely because it was an obstacle to their maneuverability in combat.

Viking socks

In winter it was important to stay warm, so it was very common for Vikings to wear things like woolen socks, scarves or even mittens.

Viking woman sowing

These items were not knitted as expected, but made in a technique known as Nlbinding (needle binding). This process ensured that the socks, or mittens and scarves, were very strong and resistant.

Viking shoes

It was common for Viking shoes to be ankle-high, although boots were also worn. Both were made of leather using a process known as the turning technique. This meant that the shoe or book was sewn inside out and then pulled into its final shape. The shoes were probably attached by at least one rocker that they could adjust for a better fit.

Even if the shoes were made of leather, they did not last more than a few months and certainly never more than a year. The soleplate would likely wear out due to wear and should be replaced.

The type of clothing the Vikings wore was primarily for practical purposes. And just like today, what they wore changed with the change of season. Those of high standing or simply those who have more money, the clothes may have been of better quality with patterns or symbols.

So the next time you dig up that big winter coat in late fall, think of the Vikings, a people we have more in common with than you think.

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