Kilts in the Land of Fjords? Myth of Viking Garb

The image of a muscular Viking, fierce axe in hand, striding across the battlefield in a tartan kilt, is ingrained in popular culture. However, despite its prevalence, this portrayal is historically inaccurate. So, did the Vikings wear kilts? Let’s delve into the fascinating world of Viking attire and separate fact from fiction.

Trousers Were the Viking Fashion

Contrary to popular belief, Vikings primarily wore trousers, known as “braies.” These were loose-fitting, knee-length garments made from wool or linen, often tied at the ankles with leg wraps for added warmth and protection. Archaeological finds and depictions in Viking art support this attire, showcasing various styles and decorations on these trousers.

The Rise of the Kilt: A Later Story

The modern kilt, as we know it, didn’t appear until centuries after the Viking Age. Its development traces back to 16th-century Ireland and Scotland, evolving from a full-length garment called a “great kilt” worn by Gaelic populations. The iconic pleated kilt we see today emerged even later, around the 18th century.

Similarities and Misconceptions

While Vikings didn’t wear kilts, they did utilize knee-length tunics called “léines”. These tunics could offer a visual resemblance to a kilt when belted at the waist. This, combined with Viking settlements in Scotland and cultural exchange, might have contributed to the misconception of kilts being part of their attire.

Beyond Trousers: Layering for Harsh Climates

Viking clothing was practical and adapted to their harsh Nordic environment. Apart from braies, they wore layered tunics, cloaks, and jerkins for warmth. Animal skins like sheep and deer were also common materials, providing insulation and waterproofing.

Beyond Fashion: Symbolism and Status

Clothing held significance beyond mere practicality for Vikings. Colors, fabrics, and accessories held symbolic meaning, indicating social status, profession, and even religious beliefs. Jewelry and intricate embroidery showcased wealth and craftsmanship.

Embracing Historical Accuracy

While the “Viking kilt” image remains captivating, appreciating their actual attire offers a richer understanding of their culture and way of life. Museums, historical reenactments, and accurate depictions in media can help us move beyond the myth and celebrate the true diversity and functionality of Viking clothing.


So, to answer the burning question: no, Vikings did not wear kilts. While the misconception persists, exploring the fascinating world of Viking attire reveals a practical and culturally significant wardrobe far removed from the romanticized image of kilted warriors. By embracing historical accuracy, we can appreciate the ingenuity and symbolism woven into the garments of these remarkable seafarers.


Q: Did Vikings ever wear anything similar to a kilt?

A: Yes, they wore knee-length tunics called “léines” that could resemble a kilt when belted. However, these lacked the pleats and distinct construction of a true kilt.

  • Q: Why do people think Vikings wore kilts?

A: Several factors contribute to the misconception:

  • Similarities between léines and kilts
  • Viking settlements in Scotland and cultural exchange
  • Popular culture portrayals, often inaccurate
  • Q: Where can I learn more about Viking clothing?

A: Explore museums, historical reenactments, and accurate media depictions. Additionally, consult historical and archaeological research for in-depth knowledge.

  • Q: Were Vikings fashionable?

A: Vikings valued their appearance and used clothing to express social status, profession, and even religious beliefs. While practicality dictated their overall style, they incorporated colorful fabrics, jewelry, and embroidery for a touch of flair.

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