Early Cherokee clothing – Native American history

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A Native man with a mohawk, wearing a beaded vest, high boots, and a loincloth, and carrying a spear

Early Cherokee clothing: Tsiyu Gansini, Cherokee chief (late 1700s AD)

Cherokee hairstyles

Like most people, Cherokee people used their clothing and hairstyles to show that they were Cherokee and different from their neighbors. What made Cherokee men look different from other people living in North America at this time was their haircuts. Cherokee men shaved most of their hair off and just had one lock at the top of their heads.

Deerskins, bark, and hemp

According to early Spanish explorers, Cherokee people made some of their clothing out of deerskins or the skins of other animals. They wove other clothing out of bark strips or strands of hemp (they didn’t spin).

Men’s clothes and women’s clothes

In summer, Cherokee women wore skirts down just below their knees, sometimes made of deerskin or by sewing together smaller rabbit skins, and sometimes woven out of bark strips or hemp. Men wore shorts and long shirts made out of deerskin that came down past the top of their high boots.

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Cherokee shoes

Many Cherokee men had tall rawhide boots, up above their knees, to protect their feet and legs from thorn bushes when they were hunting. (The Cherokee didn’t make leather, either). The boots had fringes cut along their tops.

Women just wore low moccasins on their feet, because they didn’t go into the forest so much. Children generally went barefoot or wore moccasins in cold weather.

When they were working hard, people didn’t wear much clothing, just shorts for men and mini-skirts for women. In general, clothing was expensive and hard to get, so most people wore as little as they could get away with. Hardly anyone could afford to change their clothes much.

Feather cloaks and Cherokee clothing

In the winter, people also wore fur cloaks and long deerskin capes tied around them to keep warm. Sometimes, like the Maya and Aztecs further south, or like Pueblo people further west, they made fancy cloaks out of feathers sewn together.

Did you find out what you wanted to know about early Cherokee clothing? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: visit a Native reservation
More about Native American clothing
Native clothing after Europeans invaded

Bibliography and further reading about the Cherokee people:

Cherokee history
Cherokee economy
Native Americans
Quatr.us home

By |2018-05-23T18:18:35+00:00August 8th, 2017|Clothing, Native American|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Early Cherokee clothing – Native American history. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 8, 2017. Web. December 15, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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