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"Dark Age Welsh in short trousers" Topic


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Really Rampant16 Sep 2021 2:42 p.m. PST

I see that Gripping Beast and Westwind and maybe others do their dark age Welsh wearing a strange knee length trouser, quite tight. Others sculpt them without trousers at all.

Can anyone advise where this knee length trouser comes from? Is it accurate? Is it speculation?

Is a bare leg more accurate? I am a bit confused as to what to do. Both look good but I am curious where that design comes from.

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2021 4:55 p.m. PST

Roman Auxillia are depicted as wearing knee-length tight breeches and many other dark age nationalities are depicted that way, from what I have seen. I assumed it came about from going to colder climates. I cannot sight historical sources, however. It will be interesting to see what others know.

Prince Alberts Revenge16 Sep 2021 5:30 p.m. PST

I'd say accurate. Here's what appears to be a well researched document on dark age Irish attire to include the short trousers or "trius": PDF link

Really Rampant17 Sep 2021 1:27 a.m. PST

Thats really interesting thanks PAR.

Druzhina17 Sep 2021 2:09 a.m. PST
Swampster17 Sep 2021 2:23 a.m. PST

I wouldn't assume that what was worn in Ireland helps with what was worn in Wales.
In the 12th century (so a bit later than the GB figures) a Welshman is described as wearing only a cloak and an inner garment but with bare legs – after the fashion of his country. Irish are described wearing trousers. Descriptions can be confusing, since 'bare' and 'naked' can mean less well covered rather than completely lacking.
However, images from a similar period show _some_ Irish with various types of leg wear but Welsh with bare legs.

How much that helps for the previous 500 years is debatable. Pre-Roman Britons wore trousers, Romans could wear breeches or long trousers. There was an Irish influx in various parts of Wales. But we are then reliant on guesswork rather than definite evidence. I'm more familiar with post-1100 sources so there could be decent earlier stuff but I haven't come across any.

Probability of what they wore based on what would be sensible doesn't work! Various descriptions of the Welsh mention how they cope with thin clothing in harsh conditions and how their legs are not protected against thorns etc. It is quite possible that the bare legs made it easier to move without material being snagged.

Some of the description could be 'look at the naked barbarians' but it seems to be said matter of factly without much weight being placed on the differences. Since Irish and Welsh garb is described in different ways, I don't think this is just barbarian tropes being trotted out.

Dagwood17 Sep 2021 11:38 a.m. PST

Just to confuse things :-

(1) there were Irish settlers in Dyfed and North Wales.
(2) Many Welsh kings spent time in Viking/Irish Dublin
(3) While lower-class Welsh had bare legs, upper-class Welsh could wear trousers. There is a reference to lower-class Welshmen wearing trousers "pretending to be upper-class" or something similar.

Cerdic17 Sep 2021 12:08 p.m. PST

I wouldn't want to be strolling round Wales in winter wearing shorts…

Swampster17 Sep 2021 2:52 p.m. PST

"(2) Many Welsh kings spent time in Viking/Irish Dublin"

As noted in the article cited by PAR, trousers seem to have been uncommon for upper class Irish. A Welsh king isn't likely to have many lower class with him.


"(3) While lower-class Welsh had bare legs, upper-class Welsh could wear trousers. There is a reference to lower-class Welshmen wearing trousers "pretending to be upper-class" or something similar."

Which would suggest it was abnormal for the non-upper class types like the figures in the OP. BTW, the person noted as being bare-legged in the custom of his race was the son of a prince.

"I wouldn't want to be strolling round Wales in winter wearing shorts…"

They seem to have been made of tough stuff.


link has some details about Welsh legwear, so some existed. At least some of the sources may be as late as late 14th century, by which time Welsh and English clothing seems to have been similar if not before, so the sources aren't necessarily useful for much earlier.

Druzhina17 Sep 2021 3:57 p.m. PST

p.102, Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Volume 8
edited by Robin Netherton

Under medieval Welsh law, the beagle, or court sergeant, received as part of his payment a crys a llavder (sic) [shirt and trousers]; the trousers were to be hep ternllyf (tenllif), interpreted by Aled Rhys Wiliam as being without a lining, but by Dafydd Jenkins as "without containing mixed fabric," that is, of pure linen. It is also stated in the Vendotian (northern) law code that the beagle's clothes should reach the knot of his breeches, wherever that might have been.

Should "beagle" be beadle?

The rhingyll, serjeant, in the Laws of Hywel Dda, mid 13th Century, National Library of Wales MS. Peniarth 28 may be wearing trousers.

mirror site
The rhingyll, serjeant, in the Laws of Hywel Dda, mid 13th Century, National Library of Wales MS. Peniarth 28

Druzhina
13th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

Swampster18 Sep 2021 2:30 a.m. PST

I think the serjeant has a split tunic.
He could be wearing something underneath. The context of 'llawdr' seems to be as something to wear under the tunics, often paired with the crys an undershirt. The images suggest that they can't be seen below the level of the tunic and the descriptions agree with this. Same sort of thing as linen braies.

The laws mentioning 'trowsers' are here link

Interesting that whereas they are given a coat and shirt, they are only given the material for making trowsers. I wonder if the 'tie' of the trousers is at the knee, otherwise he would be wearing a very short cloak. Braies were often tied at the knee.

Looking again at the GB figures, it seems only some of their Welsh have breeches, mostly the teulu and just a few of the lower class types. Of course, they are also representing a period before the laws, images and descriptions we have, so things could have changed.

There is another reference to trousers in Welsh law if they are stolen in someone else's house, you get no compensation as you should be looking after them :)

"Should "beagle" be beadle?"
Looks so. link

Hobhood402 Oct 2021 6:37 a.m. PST

Is this not simply an attempt by manufacturers to differentiate between dark age 'factions'? Maybe some Irish-influenced 'Kells' Welsh on the west coast wore trews. Others may have worn trousers or linen 'underwear' beneath tunics. However, the adoption of the 'trews' looks for the Welsh just distinguishes those wargame figures from the Irish, the Scots, the 'Hiberno Norse', and the fairly generic Saxons and Vikings with whom they came in contact and so provides a visual difference on the tabletop. The excellent new Footsore Welsh uses this visual trope on some figures.

Gerald of Wales in the 12th century mentioned above by Swampster describes Welsh clothes and makes no mention of trousers or trews. So what we've got here is a figure manufacturer's 'style' rather than something derived from any reliable sources. Using Pict/Irish tunic bodies with shorter haired moustached heads (doable by kit bashing the recent plastic kits now available) might be the most 'historical' representation of dark-age Welsh warriors.

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