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GOT THE VIKING STYLE?

Posted by Grimfrost Crew on

It might be old news to some, whilst others will be surprised by the fact that Vikings were considered the cleanest, best dressed and most groomed Europeans of the early medieval ages. Fact is that they were flamboyant show-offs that managed to seduce even married women. Let’s have a look at how far they took their grooming.

Your average Viking was very conscious about his looks. Yes, we’re saying “Viking”, since this wouldn’t naturally have applied to every fisherman, farmer and craftsman in Viking Age Scandinavia. Was it vanity? Well, we like to think it was more so a conscious step taken to display success and status, as well as to establish a distance to all the poor farmers, fishermen and craftsmen who probably both smelled and were dirty due to their profession. In other words not very different from today’s world where one’s image projected upon others is a large part of the person’s identity. This resulted in a flamboyant level of showing-off, where the Vikings displayed their wealth and status through their looks, clothes, huge jewelry and overly decorated weapons.

Do you have what it takes when it comes to cleanliness and style in comparison to a Viking? 

  1. Vikings carried hygiene sets. Most men carried a “hygiene set” consisting of an earspoon, fingernail pick and tweezers. How often do you clean your ears and nails with anything else besides your finger? How often do you use tweezers to pick unwanted, stray hairs from your face?
  1. Vikings bathed and changed clothes once a week. Saturday was called “washing day”. Washing and changing clothes once a week was unheard of among the other Europeans of the time.
  1. Vikings groomed their beard and combed their hair. Each man carried a comb and made sure to keep the hairs on his head and face in good order. They also carried and used razors to make sure that their beards didn’t connect with their chest hairs. 
  1. Vikings filed their teeth. They would file horizontal lines into the enamel on their front teeth and paint these lines in red resin. Gold-teeth and other teeth jewelry of today can’t compare with the hardcore practice of filing your teeth.
  1. Not all Vikings were blondes. However, being blonde was considered beautiful. This made many brown haired Vikings use strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair and beards to get the blonde look that was considered an ideal.
  1. Vikings followed international fashion trends. Vikings didn’t hold fast to wool and fur, rather picking up fashion from where ever they went. Huge Turkish pants became immensely popular among Swedish Vikings, whilst imported silken cloth was wanted by all who could afford it. Bright colors were preferred too, mainly red and blue seemed to be the thing. Add to that huge, often impractical jewelry and you’d be in style.
  1. Viking Ink. The 10th Century Arab traveler, Ahmad Ibn Fahlan, encountered Swedish Vikings along the Volga. He described each man as “tattooed from fingernails to neck with dark blueish-green tree like patterns (knotwork?) and other figures”. Whether Vikings tattooed themselves mainly for looks or for spiritual reasons isn’t known.
  1. Vikings used make up. What they used was an eyeliner known as Kohl, which is a dark powder. Ibrahim Al-Tartushi, an Arab traveler who visited the Viking trading hub of Hedeby in 950 AD wrote that: “there is also an artificial make-up for the eyes, when they use it beauty never fades, on the contrary it increases in men and women as well.”
And a final note. Contrary to common belief the Vikings hardly had to steal away women. It was quite the opposite. A surviving account by a 12th century writer, John of Wallingford, details the consequences of Viking looks:

‘…caused much trouble to the natives of the land; for they were wont, after the fashion of their country, to comb their hair every day, to bathe every Saturday, to change their garments often, and set off their persons by many frivolous devices.  In this matter they laid siege to the virtue of the married woman, and persuaded the daughters even of the noble to be their concubines’.

So ask yourself can you compete in swag compared to a heavily tattoeed Viking with filed teeth,  eyeliner and bleached hair and beard, dressed in bright red silk and huge, impractical jewelry?
 
 
 Captain Jack – he might have melted in quite well into the crowd



Viking Teeth 


Combs are one of the most common items found in Viking graves

Floki – a fashionable Viking

 


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9 comments


  • This is really interesting! There was a story passed down from my paternal great grandmother that we were descended from Vikings. I just never got the story of which great grandmother passed it down before my grandmother died, so I don’t know whether it was on the Irish side or the Swedish side. It could have been either. I have loved Viking histories even before my grandmother told me the story…

    Cindy on

  • Very interesting!!

    John Martell on

  • Love reading and learning about the Vikings..Their History is so intriguing .

    Erin on

  • I read somewhere that the vikings got a bad rep of raping women due to a mistranslation of rapine… What you said in the article just strengthens the mistranslation theory…. I’m sure some did, however, if you don’t have a problem picking up women naturally, why waste your energy with force?

    Eric on

  • Northern History is sadly lacking in our education systems today, at least in the US. I would love to see more attention paid to the literature of the sagas, alongside all the other ancient literature presented (Greek, Sumerian, Hebrew, etc.)

    Julie Sobchack on


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