What did people wear in Northern Europe?

Quatr.us answers questions: an online encyclopedia of history and science

German clothing

Column of Marcus Aurelius
German prisoners of war in tunics and pants on the
column of Marcus Aurelius, Rome

German clothing was like the clothing of Central Asia in that German men, and often women, wore pants under their tunics to keep them warm. This was different from the clothing of the Mediterranean and West Asia, where men and women both only wore tunics with nothing underneath. Both the Germans and the Romans thought of this as an important difference between them.

Many German people also gave their children long heads by intentionally shaping their skulls when they were babies. Like the Chinook (and other people) they felt that a long, high forehead was a good look.

elongated skull
Skull of a person from northern Europe, ca. 500 AD
(now in Landesmuseum W├╝rttemberg)

Another difference between Germans and Romans was in hairstyles. German men generally wore their hair long, but Greek and Roman men generally cut their hair. Also, most Roman men shaved their beards, but many German men did not. German women wore their long hair in braids, while Roman women generally piled theirs on top of their heads in buns.

In other ways, German clothing was very similar to Roman clothing. Both men and women wore tunics, and women's tunics were longer than men's tunics. Both men and women wore cloaks or capes over their tunics to keep warm. Because it was colder in Germany, people wore mainly wool rather than linen, and a lot of them wore fur capes or fur-lined pants also.

heavy gold necklace
heavy gold necklace

Men and women in Northern Europe also wore heavy gold jewelry, like the Scythians in Central Asia. They weren't using money, and wearing heavy gold jewelry gave people a convenient way to carry their wealth around, and also show people exactly how rich they were.

Learn by doing: spinning project
Or: learn to braid hair!
More about clothing in medieval Europe

Bibliography and further reading about the history of European clothing:

More about wool
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Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

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