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Regia Anglorum – Basic Clothing Guide

Male Clothing

The Tunic (O.E. Cyrtle, Pad, Tunece)

Tunics are generally long sleeved and knee length when belted. The sleeves are usually fairly loose on the upper arm but tighter on the fore-arm, often with creases or pleats shown round the lower arm. The knee length tunic is almost always shown belted at the waist or hip, often being pouched over the belt. It is always loose fitting with a full skirt, frequently made fuller by the insertion of extra triangular panels at each side. There have been Viking finds with these triangles of fabric also inserted in the front and back. Many tunics are illustrated with close round necks, although in reality the head could not have passed through the hole unless there was an opening at the neck. This opening was probably closed by a tie, garment hook, pin, or brooch. There is no indication that buttons were used by the Saxons, although Vikings did use buttons on coats. It is possible that artists were showing a type of garment which opened at the back of the neck. In many cases however, the slit at the front is obvious, as this and the neckline, are bordered by a band or collar in a contrasting colour.

Shorter tunics are sometimes shown, but are far rarer than the knee length variety. These shorter tunics are most often shown being worn by Vikings and Anglo-Norse; rarely these tunics have short sleeves. Sleeveless tunics are also shown but they are very rare and are generally shown being worn by very poor ceorls or theows.

Towards the middle of the 11 th century a knee length shirt/tunic, appears with a split from the hem to the top of the thigh, front and back. It is shown being worn by both Norman soldiers and English warriors on the Bayeux Tapestry. It appears to be less full than the normal tunic, and often slightly shorter. It is worn by unarmoured men either in battle or working around the military camps. It is not common and may have been the garment worn under the similarly shaped hauberks and appear to be quite plain.

The Undertunic (O.E. Ham, Smoc, Under-Serc)

Undertunics were much the same as overtunics, except it appears that they tended to be made of finer wool or linen, or if the wearer was very rich, of silk. It is probable that the undertunic was slightly shorter than the overtunic since it can rarely be seen in illustrations. From this, some members of Regia Anglorum have interpreted the undertunic as a much shorter shirt like garment - there is little evidence either way.

Leg Coverings

Tunic clad men in illustrations are usually shown with leg coverings of a different colour to the tunic.

The most common type of leg covering seems to have been the single leg hose (O.E. hosa, strapul), a garment a little like a woollen stocking. Hose were usually very tight fitting and sometimes had an integral foot. They were held up by a strap from the top of the hose to a waist tie, or by pinning them to the under garments.

Trousers (O.E. braccas, brec-hrægl) were also worn, particularly by the Vikings. These were also quite tight fitting and were held up by a belt or passing through loops.

Two particular types of trousers are the Viking 'baggy' trousers and 'Norman' knee breeches (O.E. broc). Viking baggy trousers were especially popular with the Rus or Eastern Vikings. These are very full in the upper leg, often using several yards of fabric per leg, gathered into a tight fitting lower leg. A few were full right down to the ankle. Norman knee breeches, despite their name, were not worn exclusively by the Normans , some of the more 'fashion conscious' Saxon men would also have worn them by the second half of the eleventh century. They were actually a long pair of very baggy shorts reaching the knee or just below, and worn over a pair of hose and a short tunic. Members of Regia Anglorum should note that the clothes they wear will be in context with their character and the event that they are attending and that these items are not common and will not be permissible at many events.

The lower leg is often shown with another type of covering in addition to the trousers or hose – leg bindings (O.E. hose-bend, nostle, sceanc-bend, sceanc-gegirela). The most common type is the 'puttee'. The puttees are formed by winding a continuous length of fabric or band around the leg in a tight, overlapping spiral from ankle to knee, and in some cases from around the foot to the knee. This is the style most often depicted on Saxon figures and could use as much as six yards of binding per leg. Puttee bindings can be worn without any other leg-wear in hot weather to give protection from nettles, brambles etc., when working. There have been archaeological finds of small strap ends just below the knee suggesting a single strap may have been used to pull the fabric in at this point.

The Gown (O.E. Slop, Slype)

The gown was basically a very long tunic which reached the ankle and was occasionally slit up one or both sides. It was always heavily decorated at the collar, cuffs and hem, and was worn exclusively by the upper echelons of the nobility, at royal court, on ceremonial occasions. It does not seem to have been worn by Vikings.

The Cloak (O.E. Basing, Hacele, Lotha, Mente)

Cloaks were worn with both tunics and gowns and seem to have been worn indoors and out. Cloaks were generally square or rectangular, and were secured by a single brooch, usually at the right shoulder. The loose material was pushed back on the brooch side, leaving that arm free. On the other side the cloak might be pushed back, or left hanging down covering the arm opposite the brooch. Occasionally the cloak is clasped by a central brooch and pushed back over each shoulder in a symmetrical arrangement. This method of fastening is most often shown when the cloak is worn over the gown. The length of the cloak varies from a little below the waist to ankle length. Some cloaks may have had ribbons which were tied together to fasten them although this is quite rare. Some cloaks were hooded, but if not the excess fabric formed at the back of the neck could be pulled up to cover the head. Cloaks were often decorated with a band edging, although there is no evidence for heavily embroidered cloaks being worn in this country. Some were lined or trimmed with fur.

Coats And Jackets

A long "Kaftan" style coat was known during our period and was certainly worn by the Scandinavians. This coat was of quilted, felted or twill woven wool. This was often buttoned from the neck to the waist and was possibly worn belted. Buttons for these garments have been found from Dublin to Birka (in Sweden). This garment was probably influenced by eastern styles. Rich coats could be lined with silk, faced with decorated and embroidered silk, and trimmed with fur. The wrists could also be decorated.

An alternative style of coat may have been known in other parts of Europe although appears to be dying out; This is a wrap around coat that can be seen from as early as the 7th century (the figures on the Sutton Hoo helmet and the "minstrel′s" grave from Cologne both wear them); and from finds at Haithabu (Hedeby in Denmark). In these cases there is no evidence of buttons on the coat – it is more likely they were wrapped around the body and belted.

Leather "jerkins" (O.E. breost-rocc), possibly lined with fur may also have been worn, although we have little pictorial evidence of this (possibly some of the figures on the Fuller brooch wear jackets or waistcoats). There are, however, a few vague references to a leather or fur lined "Thorax" (chest covering) being worn. There have been finds of these leather garments in Dublin and from Loch Glaschen in Strathclyde – they were both unlined and appear to be short sleeved with leather thongs lacing up the sides.

Belts and Girdles (O.E. Belt, Fetel, Gyrdel)

Tunics were held in by a belt or girdle at the waist or hip. Girdles were often made from woven bands which were tied tightly. Belts were made from leather or bands with D-shaped buckles, and often a buckle mount, made of horn, bone or metal. Often a metal, horn or bone strap end was attached to the end of the belt. Belts were rarely wider than one inch, although a few were about an inch and a quarter. Belts do not appear to have dangling ends and metal keepers have been found which suggests that the belts were not extravagantly long. Most belts are hidden from view by the folds of the cloth although there are a small number of examples with decorated leatherwork and metal plaques.


Hoods (O.E. hod), whilst not unknown, are uncommon in illustrations although their usefulness must have been known since a cowled habit was worn by monks. The hoods used resemble a cowl (not the fourteenth century style of tailored hood).

Finds from Dublin , and other places, suggest that the Scandinavians may have worn a knotted head band (O.E. bend, snod, thwæle) of leather, or woven bands or even silk.

Gloves (O.E. Glof, Hand-Scio)

There are written references to gloves although there have been no finds of them in this country. One pictorial reference to gloves comes from the Bewcastle cross, which shows a falconer wearing a gauntlet.

Archaeological evidence from the continent demonstrates that Germanic gloves could be extremely elaborate. Leather gloves found in Germany were lined with soft cloth and laced on the back of the hand. The 'minstrel' from Cologne was wearing a different type of glove on each hand. The left glove was of cow's leather decorated with closely placed strips resembling seams and the right glove was of deer-skin with a ridge and groove ornament and a pattern of indentations.

These leather gloves were probably an item worn only by the wealthy, with poorer people pulling their sleeves down to cover their hands. The term hand-scio is usually translated as 'mitten', and these mittens would probably be made by naalbinding, or by sewing leather or cloth into the form of a mitten.

Tunic arms can be long enough to cover the hands.


The only underclothes worn apart from the under tunic seem to have been either a loin cloth (O.E. underwrædel) or braies (O.E. waed-bræc). Braies are very important for wearing under hose. They resemble a pair of knee length linen shorts. They are belted, the belt passing through loops sewn to the waist band.

Socks (O.E. cæles, meo socc) are known but would be made from naalbinding. There is also evidence of footed hose and trousers, or foot-bags.