VIKING HIKING VII
COMMON ARTICLES OF CLOTHING Part Three
Much of the clothing of the time was unisex. Clothing that was worn mainly by one gender or the other is marked below with (m) or (f). Descriptions are taken from entries in Regia Anglorum’s Basic Clothing Guide.
Shoes come down to us in various styles, and the York Archaeological Trust created a timeline that showed the various types in York. They were secured in various ways and were of different heights, though during this period they were not known to be higher than the just above the ankles.
They were all made of leather—goat leather was popular—and were turn-soled shoes. Welted, hard-soled shoes were not seen until the sixteenth century. Marc Carlson describes turn-soled shoes as “The shoe is made inside-out (with the flesh side outward) by sewing the lower edge of the upper to the edge of a single sole using an Edge-Flesh stitch. The shoe is then turned the right way round so that the grain side of the leather is on the outside of the shoe and the sole seam is now inside.”
Shoes of the time seem to have all been made from the same thickness of leather, but some shoes—especially by modern shoemakers—have soles of a heavier weight to increase its endurance and durability. It is worth noting that the soles are smooth (and not gridded or hobbed) and, therefore, quite slippery, though there is some suggestion that shoes of the time placed pitch on the soles to increase the amount of traction.
It is more appropriate to say that leather is water resistant rather than water proof. Leather has a tendency to absorb liquid, so that it will not be waterproof unless it is totally coated. A Norwegian reenacting group, Hands on History, makes turnshoes water resistant with liver oil, tallow, tar and bee’s wax cod. They note that liver oil is greatest ingredient.
Unless you are trying to mimic the discomfort of the period, putting in cushioned innersole that are unseen is generally not forbidden. Just as bringing necessary medicine is essential, so is making these very important compromises, and it is one of the compromises that is necessary.
Belts & Pouches
For our purposes, the difference between belts and sashes is that the belt—whether leather, card-woven or fabric—has a buckle and other furniture, such as strap ends, slides and plaques (obviously, the higher status you were, the more decorated the belt could be), though the belts you bring trekking should probably be rather simple and inexpensive. Belts and sashes were, for the most part thin and, from the buckles that are extant, no more than half an inch or three quarters of the inch in thickness. We allow belts to be an inch in thickness. The sashes might have been card-woven, fabric or merely cord or rope.
Tails of the belt should not be hanging down; this was a later fashion. A look at illustrations of belted tunics during the period and the popularity of belt slides also indicates that the ends of the belts were placed into the slide and not hung down from the buckle. Sashes were knotted, but lengthy tails might well be doubted.
Buckles, strap ends and slides were made of horn, bone or metal. Belts are not seen in illustrations, being obscured by rucked-up tunics or gowns.
Some illustrations suggest that the sash may have been wrapped around twice with a twist in it. Regia Anglorum notes that “It is interesting to note that strap ends but no buckles have been found in Viking women s graves, suggesting that waist ties rather than belts were worn.” Tools and personal ornaments are sometimes shown hanging from women’s sashes and tortoise brooches, but we cannot be sure how widespread this practice was.
Rather than going through a list of available types of pouches or purses, going through what might be contained in them and especially going through where and how they can be displayed—something covered exhaustively elsewhere, and we wrote an entire book on the subject—let us just make a statement. It is best to have a scrip that hangs from the neck. It is useful and can contain many useful things. These pouches may be fabric (hemp or flax linen) or leather. Pouches are seen in illustrations of the time, but Bible book bags of the time are extant and show how the pouches actually were made.
The other type of pouch you might want is a small drawstring pouch, but this is just cosmetic It is a great place to put in coins and slash silver, souvenirs and other inconsequential things. The drawstring pouch should be kept under your tunic for no other reason than to keep it safe.