Historical Men’s Headwear

During the fourteenth century, it was normal for adult men to go out in public with their heads covered;  in much the same way as Orthodox Jewish men often wear some form of head covering when outside today. In the fourteenth century men would commonly cover their hair with coifs, hats, or hoods, and later in the century chaperons also started to appear. This post will focus on the different headcoverings available to people of various classes during the fourteenth century, and will show both historical images and modern recreations as worn by members of the Garrison. It will focus exclusively on civilian headwear and will not look at military helmets. There will be a post discussing military helmets appearing shortly.

Why cover the hair?

There were many considerations which influence the abundance of headcoverings for men. Apart from religious motivations, covering your head was a vastly practical thing to do: it helped keep hair more hygienic by protecting it from damage by wood smoke, and also limited the spread of lice. In warm weather lightweight brimmed hats kept the sun off and in winter a heavyweight woollen hoods helped keep the wind and the rain out, and kept one warm.

Basic Headcoverings

Coifs were the most basic form of headwear for men in the fourteenth century, and were either worn on their own or are occasionally depicted in manuscripts worn in conjunction with hats and hoods. They were typically made of unbleached and undyed linen, which allowed them to be washed frequently, as they come in direct contact with the body. At the beginning of the century they were worn by a wide cross section of society from the very poorest to wealthy individuals. The main difference between lower-  and higher-class coifs was the quality of fabric used to make them; with lower-class coifs made from unbleached, coarse linen, and higher-class coifs made of bleached, finer linen.

Coifs can be worn in conjunction with hats and hoods as the linen would absorb sweat and grease from the hair, stopping this from soaking into the coloured wool of the hat or hood, which needed to be washed as little as possible to stop the dye from fading. During the fourteenth century use of coifs was decreasing dramatically amongst the upper echelons of society and coifs were more likely to be seen on poorer individuals or those who needed to appear respectable and/or old fashioned, for example physicians and lawyers. You can see parallels of this today with lawyers even now wearing more formal clothes than the average; you would probably be more likely to trust a lawyer wearing a suit than a pair of jeans. British lawyers today still wear old-fashioned horsehair wigs in court. Although coifs are much rarer by the end of the fourteenth century amoungst all class they did persist well into the fifteenth century.


Hats were also common headgear for fourteenth century men, and were worn by all classes of society. Straw hats were one of the most basic types of hat, and were generally wide-brimmed and used to protect the head and neck from the sun. Pilgrim hats were also common, in a wide-brimmed style similar to a basic straw hat. These hats were worn as a practical garment to keep out sun and rain whilst on pilgrimage. They were made of felted wool in various colours, and often had some kind of religious adornment, for example some had one side of the brim pinned up with a pilgrim badge – an accessory which commemorated an individual’s pilgrimage. Other kinds of felted hat were also worn for a variety of activities. These include the “bycocket” (note, this appears to be a modern name for this style – in contemporary documents these are referred to as “hats”), a style of felted hat often worn for hunting, and the “bag hat” (again this is a modern term), a basic hat style which appears to be made from woven fabric rather than felt and was worn by many different classes.

Note: it is not necessary for Garrison members to wear a hat in conjunction with a coif unless they wish to. It is difficult to know how common the usage of coifs in conjunction with hats is, whilst there are some depictions of them worn in this style hats worn alone seem to be more common.



Hoods were an outer-layer woollen garment worn by both men and women. Unlike today, they were a separate item of clothing and not attached to the main outer garment such as the coat or cloak. There are some differences between men and women’s hood styles. Men’s hoods did not have a front fastening because they did not need to be worn in conjunction with veiling as women’s hoods were, and were generally intended to be simply pulled over the head. Hoods were worn by people of all stations, and men’s hoods were often highly decorated with fashionable features such as dagging, liripipes, embroidery and applique. Hoods appear to quickly replace the coif from the very begining of the century and by its end are the most abundant type of headwear worn by all classes. In the late fourteenth century, hoods begin to be warn by younger men in more daring and to modern eyes somewhat bizarre styles, apparently for the sake of fashion. It is theorised that this is where the later chaperon style comes from.

Note: again, it is not necessary for Garrison members to wear a hood in conjunction with a coif unless they wish to; perhaps if they are depicting someone from a more old-fashioned profession such as a physician.


These are highly stylised woollen hats consisting of a stuffed roll of fabric to be worn around the head with a liripipe and skirt. They are believed to have evolved from the more daring and fashionable ways of wearing hoods earlier in the fourteenth century, which are depicted above. They were generally worn by the wealthier classes. They start to appear in the late fourteenth century and the style persists into the fifteenth century.

 Garrison Members’ Hats

Here are several group members in their authentic headgear:

Note: While we have attempted to find images as date and regional appropriate as possible, it was necessary to make some concessions due to the lack of available public domain images, therefore some of these images as from as early as 1250 and as late as 1415, however, in all cases, the styles of headwear they depict are well represented in mid to late fourteenth-century British manuscripts.

Upcoming Event: Chepstow Castle: 4th and 5th October


Members of the Garrison in camp.

Members of the Garrison in camp.

Cardiff Castle Garrison are pleased to be doing an introduction to re-enactment show at Chepstow Castle next weekend (3rd and 4th October). We will be showcasing a living history camp with crafts, blacksmith, weaponry, armour, archery and clothing displays. This show is designed for some of our newer members to get acquainted with re-enactment and learn how our equipment and displays are run and members of the public will see more detailed medieval talks and displays, including how to put up a medieval tent. If you’re free next weekend head along to Chepstow Castle between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m; we’d love to see you!

Show Report: Caldicot Castle: 30th and 31st August

Several Garrison members mustering for the battle at Caldicot Castle.

Several Garrison members mustering for the battle at Caldicot Castle.

Cardiff Castle Garrison are pleased to have been involved in the Early Medieval Alliance’s show at Caldicot Castle over the past weekend (30th and 31st August). There was, as always, a wonderful selection of traders there including some of our favourites like Bernie the Bolt and Herts Fabric. We did quite a bit of shopping there;buying various lovely-quality wools, and some brass accessories. Several of our members were also involved in the battle between the Welsh and English forces which amassed at the castle. We look forward to seeing you all there next year.



Show Report: Grand Medieval Melee at Cardiff Castle 16th and 17th August

Cooking display by the Garrison

Cooking display by the Garrison

We have had a very enjoyable weekend at Cardiff Castle taking part in the Grand Medieval Melee; it’s one of the biggest shows of the year for us and we had a great turn out. We were lucky that the Welsh weather, which had been pretty miserable all week, smiled on us and we had lots of sunshine.

Garrison gave several public demonstrations, including cookery, arms and armour, fourteenth-century crafts and clothing, and archery open to the public.

We all had a really great time, and thank you to all of the public who came and had a chat with us and to our lovely members who put on a brilliant encampment and manned the have-a-go archery.

Upcoming Event: Melee at Cardiff Castle: 16th and 17th August

A Cardiff Castle Garrison living history encampment

A Cardiff Castle Garrison living history encampment

Cardiff Castle Garrison are exited to be involved in Cardiff Castle’s Grand Medieval Melee event this weekend (16th and 17th August). We will be showcasing a large living history camp with craft, blacksmith, weaponry, armour and clothing displays as well as have-a-go archery for members of the public to test their archery skills. We will also be providing a number of talks over the weekend on various aspects of medieval life.

There will also be various other displays taking place, from period combat for children to take part in, falconry, and  thrilling story telling as well. If you’re free this weekend head along to Cardiff Castle between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m; we’d love to see you!

Trader Information for Members’ Kit

In order for our members to take part in shows they need to have period accurate clothing and footwear. We have therefore compiled a list of trusted traders who will be able to supply you with all the essentials you will need to be able to participate.

New members need a minimum of authentic undergarments and shoes to participate in Garrison shows. For more information on this, please see our kit page, and contact our living history officer, Sally Byrne, who will be able to tell you what types of fabric you need to order, and how much you will need. Find her by emailing cardiffcastlegarrison@outlook.com.

Cloth Merchants

Bernie the Bolt

Bernie is an excellent fabric trader who has a wide range of cloth in stock, his cloth is reasonably priced and has relatively high authenticity standards. Unfortunatly Bernie dosen’t have a website which you can order fabric directly from, although he is happy to send out samples. He is also available at a number of shows through out the year. His prices range from £6-8 per meter of linen and £7-£15 per meter for wool, he often has a bargin pile which is aproximatly £2 per meter although these are only sometimes suitable for our period.

Herts Fabric

Herts fabric is a well-respected supplier of cloth to historical houses, museums and film productions. They have a wide variety of period authentic linen (£7-10 per meter), wool (£7-10 per meter) and silk (£10 per meter). They also have a small selection of notions like woven braids and silk or linen thread. Their UK postage costs are £10 for up to 25kg of fabric.

Please note: If you are intending to order from Herts Fabric but are put off by the postage costs, it is often worth asking around in the group as someone else may well wish to order fabric with you, thus bringing down the postage costs.


There are several types of shoes and boots which can be considered authentic for the late fourteenth century, and in this guide we will focus on the 2 main types usually purchased by group members. The first is a buckled or tied style similar to modern mary janes or ballet flats, and the 2nd are ankle boots which are laced with leather cord. All of the following traders have been used by the group previously and you can either view their products online or find them at various shows and event through out the year.

Fox Blade Trading

These are the most reasonably priced option and come in standard sizes between 4-13 (although children’s sizes can be ordered). Please note that this is the first year that the Garrison have ordered from them but the shoes seem well constructed and have proven to be water resistant. We would reccommend buying one of the following styles:

Kevin Garlick

Kevin Garlick’s shoes are generally highly thought of within our group, with the majority of us having purchased a pair of shoes from him at some point. Though they are more expensive than other re-enactment shoe traders, they are of a very high quality and many of our members have had pairs last for many years. They have the added advantage of being made to measure your feet. This allows for greater customisation of the shoes and they can be made to suit various orthopaedic needs. Due to this process, however, shoes ordered from Kevin Garlick can take several months to arrive, though from time to time Kevin also has some shoes in standard sizes. The shoes range from approximately £90 – £120. The following are our recommended styles:

Andy Burke

Several of our members have previously bought shoes from this trader, for those of us living in South Wales he is quite handy being up the road from us in Bridgend. We recommend the following types as being most period accurate:

Please Note: All items of kit need to be passed as authentic by our living history officer, Sally Byrne, before they may be used at Garrison shows. We therefore strongly recommend that members contact her to check the authenticity of any clothing, shoes, or fabric before they buy it, to avoid disappointment. If there are any problems, we will be happy to assist you in finding alternative items.