Medieval Men’s Underwear

What did medieval men wear under their fancy clothing? Did medieval male underwear look like modern underwear?

My research post about male underwear during the middel ages and renaissance. It is mostly a photo reference post. At the end there is a list of neat links.

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

The breeches or braies

Loincloths / Trewes / Breeches / Braies / Bracchæ

In the early part of the medieval period they were pretty loose but as the tunics became shorter and more fitted so did the breeches. The length could be anything from upper-thigh to below the knee. Braies would either be closed with a drawstring or have a separate belt that could be tucked under the garments on top. Some people would wear their purse tied to this belt.

They were often made from linen, but fancier fabrics such as finely woven wool or even silk could be used.

The early loose braies or trewes

These were also often used as shorts while doing hard labor in hot weather without a shirt on. If so they would be of the long verity with the legs tied up to keep them out of the way. These are perfect if you are wearing chausses over them.

The later tighter and shorter braies

In the late 1300’s and 1400’s the silhouette got more fitted with shorter tunics which called for a tighter fit for the underwear and the style shifted from the very loose loincloth like types to something closer to modern boxers. At this point in time we stop seeing men working just in their braies. They do however seem to have been used as bathing shorts as well as regular underwear – men in public baths are most often depicted wearing these short braies.

The very small underwear

A few years ago a pair of underpants was discovered in Lengberg castle – there seem to be a consensus now that these are tiny male under pants, rather than what the modern viewer might think of as female bikini bottoms. It would seem that in the 1400’s and 1500’s some men, sometimes wore tiny little underpants. One scene is in a common bath which seem like a logical place to wear something like that. Notice that they are tied on the side.

The shirts or shift

Men would wear linen shirts under any other garment worn. The length seem to depend on the fashion of the time as well as the station of the man. A lot of commoners seem to have worked in their shirts and braies when it was hot or dirty work, while we never see woman doing the same. Apparently it was acceptable for at least working men to be in their underwear in public. Men’s shirts were also their sleep clothing as seen in some of the scenes – more likely than not this was the same shirt as worn during the day.

Stockings, chausses and hose

On their legs men would wear stockings (hoser), either short hose (korthoser) to the knew or longer ones to midd- to top thigh (langhoser). Some had a foot, some didn’t. In the later part of the period some stockings were tied to the doublet. The early hose are single legged and can be worn tied to the belt of the braies. They can be worn rolled down to knee or ankle in hot weather. There are a number of different types of stockings. Some poor people just wore simple leg wrappings. Worn by different type of people at different times:

Short hose
Chausses: 900 – 1420
Split Hose tied to doublets 1400’s

Over time doublets brew shorter, which meant that the braies had to be tighter as shown above but that also meant that more of it was visible.

Joined Hose 1400’s

The short doublets eventually lead to the joined hose where everything was nicely hidden away but it also added the the cod-piece became common. Sometimes it is just a piece of fabric tied on, but it can become quite elaborate pieces, jeweled and embroidered. Joined hose are fitted pants. Sometimes it was tied to the doublet and sometimes not.

Useful links


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