During the 14th 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 14th Century men would commonly cover their hair with coifs, hats, or hoods. 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 14th 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.
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 wood smoke and also limited the spread of lice. In warm weather, lightweight brimmed hats kept the sun off and in winter a heavyweight woolen hoods helped keep the wind and the rain out and kept one warm.
Coifs 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, coifs 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. This would stop it 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 14th Century, use of coifs decreased 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 conservatively dressed, for example physicians and lawyers. You can see parallels of this today with lawyers even now wearing more formal clothes than the average person (you would also probably be more likely to trust a lawyer wearing a suit than a pair of jeans). Although coifs were much rarer by the end of the 14th Century amongst all class, they did persist well into the 15th Century.
Hats Hats were also common headgear for 14th 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, for example the “bycocket”, a style of felted hat often worn for hunting.
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 Hoods were an outer-layer woolen 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 always have a front opening because they did not need to be worn in conjunction with veiling as women’s hoods were. 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 beginning of the 14th Century and by its end were the most abundant type of headwear, worn by all classes. In the late 14th Century, hoods begin to be worn 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 so-called ‘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.
Chaperons From the mid-14th Century, some fashionable men took to wearing their hoods in a style now known as a ‘chaperon’. To do this, the face opening was rolled back before being placed on the head like a hat. The liripipe was then wrapped around the hood to create a decorative shape.
As time progressed, this style became more exaggerated until, in the 15th Century it developed into a hat consisting of a stuffed roll of fabric with trailing vestiges of the liripipe and cape.
Garrison Members’ Hats
A straw hat:
A pilgrim’s hat:
A hood, worn conventionally:
The same hood, worn chaperon style:
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. However, in all cases, the styles of headwear they depict are well represented in mid to late 14th Century British manuscripts.
Garrison ladies use several types of head covering, including veils, wimples and caps. This blog post will focus on how to put on and wear these styles using step by step photographs.
For information relating to the history and evidence for ladies’ headcoverings, please see this blog post.
You will need:
Fillet: A fillet is a strip of cloth which is pinned around your head and under your hair, holding it back and offering something to secure your veils to. This also makes your hair less likely to fall forward when your veil is on. A fillet needs to be long enough to wrap around your head once, as shown below, plus leave around a 2 inch overlap. A basic fillet should be at least 2 inches wide and long enough to go around your head and pin at the back. Decorative fillets often show more variation due to their decorative elements; this version ties at the back. The basic fillet shown here measures 2.5 x 25 inches.
St Birgitta’s Cap: This is a ladies’ cap, somewhat similar to a man’s coif, designed to encapsulate all of your hair whilst providing a secure foundation to pin the rest of your veils to. The St Birgitta’s cap can be a very useful item of underpinning, especially if you need to cover modern hair colours, piercings, or tattoos. There is a very detailed description of how to make them in Medieval Clothing and Textiles 4by Netherton and Owen-Crocker, and fellow medieval re-enactor Katafalk provides an easy-to-follow tutorial here.
Veil Pins: These can be made of various different materials including brass, steel, silver, or gold. They should be a minimum of 1.5 inches long and a maximum of 2.5 inches long to secure veils effectively. 3-4 of these are necessary for most headcovering styles.
Veil: Your veil should be wide enough to cover your hair from the top of your forehead to approximately to the top of your bra band, though this can vary depending on the amount of hair you have and your height; the important thing is to ensure that all of your hair is covered. The basic veil shown here measures 24 x 29.5 inches.
Wimple: Your wimple should be long enough to go from the crown of your head, under your chin, and return to the crown of your head and cross over with approximately a 2 inch overlap. The basic wimple shown here measures 13 x 32 inches.
Veil styles, from the simplistic to the complex, often benefit from having something underneath to secure them to. Here, we show two options commonly worn by Garrison ladies: the fillet and the St Birgitta’s Cap.
Fillet: The short strip shown in the underpinnings photograph.
To put on a fillet, wrap it around your head in front of your hair and cross the ends over at the back, leaving around a 2 inch overlap, and pin together.
St Birgitta’s Cap: The small cap shown in the underpinnings photograph. To put on a St Birgitta’s Cap, follow the directions below.
If you have long hair, you need to ensure that it is contained under more conservative veil styles. Loose hair under veils is not shown in period manuscripts and hair is almost exclusively shown as dressed even when uncovered. We in the Garrison strongly recommend placing it in some sort of bun or plait, or having a go at a medieval style.
A simple veil is a younger woman’s style and is less conservative because it doesn’t cover the neck as a wimple does. When re-enacting, the style is advantageous because it is cooler, shows off your neck, and has the potential for authentic hairstyles including cornettes and ramshorns. It is less helpful in covering up inauthentic tattoos and piercings, however, and does not offer as much protection from the sun. This is how to put on a simple veil securely.
Wimple and Veil Combination
A wimple is a cloth which covers your neck and is usually worn in conjunction with a veil to cover your hair. It is a more conservative style because it covers up more, and is advantageous to re-enactors because it is very effective at covering up inauthentic hair colour, tattoos, or piercings, and offers a great deal of protection from the sun. It is also possible to use the combination in conjunction to authentic hairstyles such as ramshorns and cornettes. This is a guide to how to put on a wimple and veil securely.
Wrapped Veil Style
A wrapped veil style is a thoroughly versatile style because it is only made from one, long piece of cloth, and it is possible to vary how conservative you make it based on how far back you place it on your head. This style is advantageous because it provides a great deal of coverage using minimal cloth
Married Women’s and Widow’s Veil
A widow’s veil is a highly conservative style of veil which covers the jawline as well as the hair and neck.
Higher-class ladies could be less conservative in their veiling. They could also often afford more expensive and complex versions of the above styles.
Wrapped veil: This style is very similar to the wrapped style above, but there are some variations in pinning and the veil is made from a linen/silk mix cloth of a very loose weave. This allows some hair to be seen underneath it while still technically covering the hair. It is also set further back on the head, showing some hair at the front.
Frilled veil: This style is a variation on the simple veil style, though it is here worn with a wimple in addition to this. A longer frill may also be worn with a wrapped veil. Note: this style is also known as the goffered or nebule veil.
High-class simple veil: This veil is another variation on the simple veil, but is made from silk/linen mix fabric and is pinned much further back on the head, showing far more hair.
High class silk veil with decorative fillet:
This is the highest class headcovering style shown here because of the pearl decoration on the fillet and the silk of the veil.
Hoods and Hats
A variety of hoods and hats may be worn in addition to veils, but are always worn in conjunction with them as per these images:
Common Veiling Errors
There are certain common veiling errors which may be observed among re-enactors:
Thank you for reading, and we hope you found everything useful! This post is brought to you by Munchkin, who, as you can see, clearly helped.
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 clothing page, and contact our Living History Officer, who will be able to tell you what types of fabric you need to order and how much you will need. You can contact them by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Unfortunately Bernie doesn’t have a website which you can order fabric directly from, although he is happy to post 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 bargain pile which is approximately £2 per meter although these are only sometimes suitable for our period.
Herts is a well-respected supplier of cloth to historical houses, museums and film productions. They have a wide variety of period authentic linen (£7-15 per meter), wool (£7-20 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. 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 are suitable for the mid-14th Century, and in this guide we will focus on the two main styles. The first is a buckled or tied style similar to modern ‘Mary Janes’, and the second are ankle boots which are laced with leather cord. All of the following traders have been used by the group previously. You can either view their products online or find them at various markets, shows and events 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). Although not quite as robust as more expensive options, they hold up well to regular use and are very good value for money. We recommend buying one of the following styles:
Kevin Garlick’s shoes are generally highly thought of within our group, with many of us having purchased a pair of shoes from him at some point. Though they are more expensive than some re-enactment shoe traders, they are of a very high quality and many of our members have had pairs last for over a decade. 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. Understandably, this means that shoes ordered from Kevin Garlick take several months to arrive. However, occasionally he has some shoes in standard sizes. We recommend buying one of the following styles:
Several of our members have previously bought shoes from this trader. For those of us living in South Wales, he is quite handy, being just up the road from us in Bridgend. We recommend buying one of the following styles:
NP Historical Shoes
NP make excellent shoes. Unlike many other suppliers, NP’s styles are not ‘generic late medieval’ but instead are inspired directly from individual archaeological finds. Additionally, they are hand-sewn as well as being available made-to-measure. Understandably, this makes them more expensive than the other options on this list. However, their quality and research is more than worth it. We recommend buying one of the following styles, a selection of which are shown below: 14/2, 14/3, 14/4, 14/6, 14/7, 14/8, 14/8B, 14/11A, 14/11B, 14/18, 15/1A or 15/1B. They also make suitable pattens (wooden overshoes): we recommend styles P14/2, P14/3, P144 and P14/7.
Please Note:All clothing and equipment needs to be ok’d by our Living History Officer before they may be used at Garrison shows. We therefore strongly recommend members contact them before they buy, to avoid disappointment. If there are any problems, we will be happy to assist you in finding alternative items.
During the fourteenth century, adult ladies (and gentlemen) did not generally go around in public with their hair on display. Hair was considered private and not something to be displayed outside of the home, in the same way that Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women often cover their hair when out in public today. Fourteenth-century gentlemen would more commonly cover their hair with coifs, hats, or hoods, while ladies covered theirs with fabric veils and wimples.
This post will focus on the different headcoverings available to ladies of various classes during the fourteenth century, displaying some examples worn by our group members.
Why cover the hair?
Apart from the religious nature of veiling, covering the hair was often a highly practical measure in a culture where ladies’ hair was not usually cut short and so needed to be kept controlled so that a woman could carry out her daily tasks. Veiling could also help to keep hair more hygienic by preventing transmission of lice, and protect the hair from woodsmoke damage from the ubiquitous fires, as well as obvious protection from the sun.
Veils and wimples are some of the most common headcoverings worn by women in the fourteenth century. A veil is a cloth pinned over the top of a lady’s head and covering her hair, but leaving the neck uncovered. A wimple is another, similar cloth that can be worn in addition to this, and covers the neck. These would often be supported by fillets:small strips of fabric to attach veils to.
These are fairly basic headcoverings and would have been worn in various styles by ladies of all classes in the fourteenth century. Wearing a veil without a wimple was a less conservative style and more commonly found in young unmarried ladies or perhaps young and recently married ladies. Adding a wimple was a more conservative style and seen on older, married ladies. It was a must for widowed women, who would often wear it even higher than in the photo, completely covering their chin.
Higher Class Veils
As a general rule, the higher class a lady was, the less conservative her veiling could be. This often included very lightweight veils through which hair could be seen, more expensive veil fabrics such as silk, or elaborately decorated fillets or snoods to contain the hair. While it was more permissible for higher-class women to show some hair, this hair would never be loose, but would always be styled (dressed) underneath, or perhaps contained within decorative fillets or snoods.
Hoods were an outer-layer garment worn by both men and women, though there are some differences between men and women’s hood styles. Women wore their hoods for both warmth and to protect their veils, as veils could be damaged if they became wet. Hoods were always worn by women in addition to veils.
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 1410, however, in all cases, the styles of veils they depict are well represented in late fourteenth century British manuscripts.