Vikings were known for their longboats and their axes, but they were also known for their boots. In fact, the word “viking” comes from the Old Norse word víkingr, which means “one who goes on an expedition.”
Vikings wore a lot of different things on their feet. They wore boots with hard soles, or sometimes they tied a piece of leather to their foot.
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Viking clothing patterns
The Vikings loved to have patterns on the clothes, and we do have some bits of pieces with patterns from the Viking age. But many of the patterns that are made on reconstructed Viking clothes today, are inspired by the Viking art, such as on weapons, jewelry, and runestones and other sources, which are not necessarily clothes.
Viking Clothes Female
The clothes of a typical Viking woman consisted of a long chemise made of linen, and a shorter woolen strap apron overdress, sometimes called a hangerock.
A Viking woman’s overdress extended from shoulder to halfway down the calf and was suspended from two straps fastened at the front by means of two brooches, usually made from bronze. In the 9th and 10th centuries these brooches were normally oval shaped, but were gradually replaced with disk-shaped brooches in the 10th century. They often wore a third broach to fasten their cloak. There is some evidence that, at least wealthier women, wore tunics that were longer at the back than the front, and may have trailed on the ground behind them.
Women’s cloaks were similar to men’s cloaks, and they also wore belts in order to carry tools and small bags. Women’s belts appear to have been made from woven fabric rather than leather. As well as hanging things from their belts, Viking women would have hung smaller items from their brooches.
It seems that women also wore a knotted kerchief as a head covering, probably for warmth, and maybe to keep hair out of food, since women did most of the food preparation. It is not clear whether this was for everyday use or just special occasions, as some of the sagas mention elaborate headdresses.
Viking clothes male
Shirts and Tunics
Undershirts were usually made from linen, which was more comfortable against the skin than wool. A surviving example from Viborg was made with two layers of linen. It has a square neck opening with a flap that is secured with cords and fabric and loops.
The over tunic, called a kyrtill, was usually made from wool and could have long or short sleeves, probably depending on the weather. Tunics fell down to the knees and were put on overhead and did not have fastenings. They might feature a small split to expand the neck opening, which was usually closed simply, for example with a bead and thread. This was the most prominent clothes that a man would wear, and was usually died to be colorful, and may have been decorated. Some material fragments show signs of decoration, but not enough to allow for reconstructions. Modern reconstructions with decoration rely on Viking art.
Trousers were made from either linen or wool. They were generally secured with a simple drawstring waistband. Like tunic sleeves, trousers also varied in length. If a man wore shorter trousers, they would also use hose to cover the rest of their legs. These were made from two long pieces of cloth, usually wool, that were wrapped around the leg from knee to ankle.
The Vikings also commonly wore belts, usually made of bronze. Rather than using these to secure heir trousers, Vikings wore their belts over their tunics, and used them to secure knives, other tools and small pouches. Belts were made from leather and usually relatively thin, only about 2 centimeters wide. Warriors would also sometimes wear another leather strap over one shoulder to secure larger weapons such as a sword.
When temperatures fell, men would also wear heavy woolen cloaks for additional warmth. A simple rectangular design, it was often brightly colored and with striking fabric design. It was fastened at the right shoulder with ties or a penannular brooch. This style allowed the Viking to conceal what he was carrying, but keep his right arm free to handle weapons or tools.
Wealthier Vikings would have worn slightly more elaborate clothes, and they were heavily influenced by the style of the Byzantine courts, which the Vikings raided over the centuries. For the wealthy, silk was one of the most sought-after luxury materials. For example, the Mammen prince, a famous burial surviving from Jutland, suggests that his cloak was embellished with silk details displaying gold and silver thread and lined with marmot fur.
Wealthier Viking warriors may also have worn chain mail when they went into battle. Viking chainmail was expensive to produce as it required thousands of interlinked iron rings to be riveted together individually by hand. Nevertheless, some wealthy Vikings had chainmail shirts, which were probably long sleeved and extended below the knee. This would have been worn over the top of a padded leather tunic, which more humble Viking warriors often wore to offer some protection against edged weapons.
Hats and Helmets
The Vikings also often used caps made of wool, sheepskin or leather, typically made in the Phrygian style with triangular pieces of fabric sewn together. Some had ear flaps for extra warmth. According to the Grágás, a medieval Icelandic lawbook, there were severe penalties for pulling the cap off another man’s head. If the hat had no chin strap, the penalty was a fine If the hat had a chin strap and was pulled forward, the perpetrator could be banished. If the hat had a chinstrap and was pulled backward off another man’s head, the victim had the right to kill their assailant in retaliation.
For those who could afford it, Viking warriors would wear an iron helmet into battle. These usually had a simple bowl-shaped design and nose guard protruding from the center. More expensive helmets also had a guard around the eyes that formed a sort of mask. Contrary to popular belief, they did not have horns. This would have added no additional protection, and would give opponents something extra to grab during battle. If horned helmets existed, they were probably used for ceremonial purposes only.
While the very poor probably did not use underwear, the sagas suggest that wealthier Vikings also wore underwear, though no examples survive. But in the Fljótsdaela saga one hero is described leading his tent at night wearing only his tunic and underpants. In another saga Gisli is described walking at night in nothing but his shirt and linen underpants.
Viking shoes were made from goatskin or calfskin, and according to shoes surviving from a Viking settlement in York, they could vary greatly in style. Viking boots were rarely higher than ankle length, and were often closed with stitching on the inside, which probably made the shoes more durable. Some evidence survives of heeled Viking boots, but these were probably worn by merchants and the wealthy, rather than your average Viking. Shoes were secured with either laces that wrapped around the ankles or buttons. Men and women’s shoes appear to have been very similar.
Is there only one Viking look?
No. Consider how dramatic some of the clothing styles have changed from the 1970’s to today. And now consider that with the Vikings, we are talking about men and women influenced by visiting a dozen or more countries, spanning over an era that lasted nearly 300 years. Naturally, there would be some diversity.
An 11th century Norwegian fisherman living in Iceland probably dressed a lot differently than a Swedish trader in Kiev or a 10th century Danish warrior fighting at the battle of Clontarf in Dublin. It is also important to remember that there are not too many surviving examples of Viking clothing or armor (not even the metal kind!).
What we have to go by are often partial fragments of clothing and literary clues, artist renderings from around the time and place (give or take a century), and enough artifacts to make some inferences. None of these sources are 100% full-proof and even when balanced together, there is typically still a lot of room for debate. Add to this that a majority of the clothing artifacts we have found are from Viking burial sites. Is it possible that funeral clothing was different than what they normally wore on an average day? …much like someone may wear blue jeans most of their life but then their family puts them in a suit for the sake of the funeral.
What did vikings wear on their feet?
Vikings wore a type of boot called a brók. These boots had leather soles and leather uppers, like a shoe, but they were held on by laces or straps instead of being tied on. These boots were typically worn with socks, though some people also wore them without socks as well.
The word “brók” comes from Old Norse, which is the language spoken by Vikings. It means “leg covering.”
They wore sandals for comfort and style, like the ones you can see in this image.
And they also wore shoes with two pointed toes (like these), which were easier to make and more comfortable than the pointy-toed ones!