Medieval male clothing

This is my research post about what men in Denmark wore in the middle ages. In general I am most interested in the common people than in the nobles and the Church, but they will properly be mentioned. I will try to gather information and sources on what people wore in the middle ages and early renaissance. Most Danish medieval events is set in the early 1500’s around the reformation. Most of the infomation here is for European middle ages as it is apparently really hard to find anything (at least online) on the specific Danish fashion. It seems very likely that the nobles would have kept up with European fashions as the nobility of Europe were quite international at that time.

For people who know a lot about medieval dress history in Denmark there is probably not much new to find here, so think about it as an introduction or as my own research notes.

I try to give both English names for the garment items and the Danish names in parenthesis.

For most of the period most men would normally wear braids, hose, a tunic and some form of headgear. You can read more about the headgear here. Below I have tracked the changing fashion and focus in on particlar peices of clothing with lots of pictures. I update this as I find more infomation.

Clothing as a social marker

There were huge differences between the different layers of society, and you used your clothing to show your rank, status and position in society. Some clothes were tied to particular positions and trades. The richer and higher up in the social order you were, the less practical were your garments.

Unlike in much of the rest of Europe, Denmark didn’t really have laws about what people could and could not wear – at least not during the middle ages.

During the early middle ages fashion was of course not stagnant – it is a period of about five hundred years after all. Men would wear quite a few layers at times.

Underwear

The inner layers (linnedklæder) was a shirt (skjorte) and breaches (brog) normally made from linen. Over that the fashion changed – but mostly for the nobles and rich merchants. Read more

 

Outerwear

1000-1350:

From the viking age until the middle of the period men wore loose cotes1 (kjortel) under a surcote2 (overkjortel/surkot). On their legs men would wear stockings (hoser), either short ones (korthoser) to the knew or longer ones to midd- to top thigh (langhoser). Some had a foot, some didn’t.

1100’s

Men in the 1100’s wore knee-length tunics for most activities, and men of the upper classes wore long tunics, with hose and mantles or cloaks. A close fit to the body, full skirts, and long flaring sleeves were characteristic of upper class fashion for both men and women.

1200’s

Clothing in the 1200’s featured long, belted tunics with various styles of surcoats or mantle in various styles. Men could wear cyclas3. Other styles were the ganache4 and the gardcorps5

1300’s

In the 1360’s the houppelande were introduced. Houppelande is a type of robe. A sleeved, front-closing outer garment worn by both sexes, introduced c.1360 and disappearing from fashion around 1430. Always full-length on women; sometimes short on men. Characterized c.1400 and later by huge sleeves.

1350 – 1550

Fashionable men and the upper classes wore fitted jackets6 (trøje/jakke). Jackets and tunics became to be very short – around the buttocks. On their legs men would wear stockings (hoser), either short ones to the knee or longer ones to mid- to top thigh. Some had a foot, some didn’t.  In the later part of the period some stockings were tied to the jacket.

In the late 1300’s robes7 (kåbe) became popular. Men wore them belted at the waist. Particularly worn by munks, scribes, scholars and the like.

1400’s

Around 1420 houppelande fell out of fashion again and robes were in again. The sleeves was narrower again – it would seem they became very fitted and large manchets were added to the sleeve.

By the late 1470’s men in Northern Europe wore gowns/robes that wasn’t belted or plated but had small lapels of upturned front edges. The gap across the front of the doublet was covered by a stomacher.

Doublets

Doublet: item of male clothing, fitted and covering the upper part of the body and hips; originally was made of several thicknesses of cloth padded with silk or cotton and quilted. It began as an undergarment but gradually came to be worn on its own, with hose.

When it became the style for men’s doublets to extend only a little past the waist, it became necessary to cover the gap between the hose with a codpiece. The codpiece derives its name from “cod,” a medieval term for “bag.” Initially, the codpiece was a simple piece of fabric that kept a man’s private parts private; but by the 16th century it had become a prominent fashion statement. Padded, protruding, and frequently of a contrasting color, the codpiece made it virtually impossible to ignore the wearer’s crotch.8

Outerwear

A lot of different kinds of cloaks, capes and mantles were used as well as surcotes and robes.

Mantle and capes
The king is wearing a cotte and cape. The musician is wearing a tunic and hose. c 1244-1254

A mantle was a loose outer garment or cloak cut in the round, open down the front and fastened either on the shoulder or in front; used by both men and women. It was often worn in a ceremonial or representative capacity.

For more partical outerwear you would wear a short cape with or without a hood.

Heuque
He is wearing a heuque: Sleeveless outer garment joined only at the shoulders. 1434

Another option is a heuque: A sleeveless outer garment joined only at the shoulders.

Cowl
Peasant sewing. He is wearing an cowl (outer garment with a hood) over a long tunic. He has a beard and is caring a wicker bag full of grain, c. 1201-1225

The cowl (from the Latin cuculla, meaning “a hood”) is an item of clothing consisting of a long, hooded garment with wide sleeves. Originally it may have referred simply to the hooded portion of a cloak. In contemporary usage, however, it is distinguished from a cloak or cape (cappa) by the fact that it refers to an entire closed garment.

Commoners

Throughout the period tunics and stockings are popular wear for the common man, merchant and farmer. Stockings could be long or short. Read more

More about medieval fashion – aka useful links


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