Anglo-Saxon clothes – men

Anglo-Saxon man in traditional dress
Anglo-Saxon man in traditional dress

5th and 6th centuries

Men wore wool or linen hip-length undershirts with long sleeves, and probably loin-cloths. Woollen trousers were held up with a belt threaded through loops. A tunic was pulled over the head, and reached down to the knees. It was usually decorated at the wrists, neck and hem, and was long-sleeved. A belt was worn at the waist, often with a decorated buckle and strap-end.  Pouches, knives and other accessories might be hung from the belt. Shoes were made usually from a single piece of leather, but perhaps with an extra piece to form a sole. They were fastened with laces, toggles or loops.

7th to 11th centuries

Tunics tended to have extra pleats inserted at the front, and sleeves became fairly tight-fitting between elbow and wrist. Bands of cloth, like military ‘puttees’ were often wound around the leg from knee to ankle. Belts tended to become thinner, and money may sometimes have been carried in pouches.

Cloaks, if worn, varied in length, but were rectangular in shape and fastened at the shoulder. There is evidence that shoes were sometimes fastened with buckles or buttons. Jewellery became increasingly popular. Socks were probably worn by some from earliest times, but there is hard evidence for them in the later period.

There was undoubtedly much variation according to region, period and status. Many people would have gone barefoot, while leather and sheepskins must have been used for clothing. Hats of straw, wool or leather were worn.

Most clothes were made at home, and would almost certainly have undergone many repairs, or have been handed down, before being eventually cut up for rags or thrown away. Most fabric was plain-woven, but there is some evidence of tabby and twill-woven fabric.

Underclothes were not usually dyed, but left in their natural colour, or perhaps sun-bleached. Outer clothes could be dyed in various colours: woad for blue, ochre for brown and orange, madder for colours from red to yellow, green from seaweeds. Black was rare, as it was a difficult colour to obtain.