Whether you’re a romance novel enthusiast or an action film junkie, you’ve likely seen a kilt or twenty in your entertainment. Scottish Highlanders make for great romantic leads, and Vikings have interesting cultures to unpack in movies and TV shows.
But only one of these two media types has historically accurate apparel. Scottish Highlanders and Vikings did not dress similarly.
So, did the Vikings wear kilts? Or is that just fiction? Read on to learn more.
Did the Vikings Wear Kilts?
The short answer to this question is no. Vikings did not wear kilts despite the images popularized on mainstream TV.
Kilts were a garment primarily worn by Scottish Highlanders. They were comfortable and breathable, which made them ideal for day-to-day activities. The lightweight kilts made movement easy since Vikings were active as warriors and farmers.
Highlanders also used different kilt patterns to represent their own Scottish clan. The kilts also allowed them to show off their clan identity and take pride in it.
Kilts were heavily patterned and went down to the knee. Vikings did not wear those garments but instead opted for Viking tunics.
Viking Tunics: The Basics
Viking tunics were longer than kilts and generally fell at or slightly below the knee. Wearers also wore leather pants or trousers made from similarly durable materials underneath.
Vikings went on a lot of maritime expeditions and invaded coastal towns. Conquering them meant a lot of vigorous outdoor activity. However, coastal areas are cold, as are times at sea, so they needed more warmth than a simple kilt could offer.
Tunics were specially designed to protect Vikings against cold weather. They had utility and functionality.
They also generally had simpler designs that weren’t patterned. Tunics were mostly made from unicolor wool and linen. Most of them were brown, gray, dark green, or black.
However, some Vikings wore tunics in other hues to denote their wealth and status. Bright colors like red and yellow showed that the wearer was rich enough to afford the rare dyes used to create these colors. It showcases that they had power and status within their communities.
Other Viking Garments
A knee length tunic would be secured into place with pins made from bone or metal. Leather belts also kept them from falling off.
Fur pelts and jackets also were common for those who needed extra warmth. They went over the classic tunic and could generally come off during battle.
Cloaks were common on top of tunics, and they would be fastened on at the shoulder. A brooch would hold them in place. Like with the tunics, brightly-hued cloaks showed status.
Vikings also were practical as well as stylish, so they opted for utility when it came to footwear. Handcrafted leather shoes were extremely durable and water-resistant. They protected Viking’s feet and ensured that they did not get wet and cold.
Wool or fur hats also provided them with some extra comfort during the winter. Mittens made of these same materials were also commonplace.
Those looking to spruce up their wardrobe with modern Viking clothing will find tunics, cloaks, and shoes made to look like these stylish and functional apparel items. They will be made from different materials using modern methods, which makes them more accessible and less expensive.
Vikings and Self-Expression
Remember how we said that Scottish Highlanders wore kilts with patterns to symbolize their clans? Vikings may not have done this, but they did wear jewelry that represented their values and social groups.
Vikings wore a lot of precious metals like silver and gold. This was partly because they used jewelry as currency to barter for food and weapons. They even had special neckbands and armbands to break apart and trade for smaller items!
But jewelry also served expressive and social purposes. Vikings would wear pieces given to them by family members and others within their social groups. This would create a sense of belonging through sentimental objects.
They also would wear symbols with various meanings. Runes denoted words that tied people together while Godly symbols like the Hammer of Thor brought them closer to the Gods they worshipped. There were also symbols to represent bravery, courage, and strength.
How Did We Debunk the Viking Kilt Myth?
Archaeological studies provide us with a lot of knowledge about Viking clothing. It’s useful when trying to separate historical facts from the way they’re portrayed in popular fiction. Many people only see Vikings on TV and don’t know the facts, but they’re pretty clear when you look into academic research.
Many archaeologists have looked into Viking graves to learn more about their communities. Many of them have held well-preserved textiles that shrouded the Vikings that were buried there. Studying these textiles has given academics a lot of information about the materials and colors that Vikings wore.
Experts have also examined art and runes from the Viking Age. Like all cultures and communities throughout history, Vikings valued artistic expression and creation. They made a lot of illustrations and paintings that depicted their people.
Looking at this art is a great way to see how Vikings realistically depicted themselves. No one knew better what they wore than they did!
The same applies to their runic writings in which they described themselves. Runic inscriptions that described their people and communities talked about apparel and expression. Archeologists can use this information to create a realistic rendition of what Vikings might have worn.
More Info on Historical Attire
So, did the Vikings wear kilts? No, they didn’t, contrary to what popular media portrayals would have you think. But they had some pretty awesome styles of their own that are well worth examining and even wearing.
Now that you know this, it’s time to learn more about historical attire and things of Norse origin. Check out the “fashion” tab on our home page for more intel on how you can channel styles from the past. Then, click on the “travel” tab to learn the places you can go to learn about different cultural values and priorities.