What did Bronze Age People Wear? - Clothing & Shoes

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

During the Bronze Age, people used new technology and extra time to transform the types of clothing they wore. In this lesson, learn about Bronze Age clothing and what it says about the society of the time.

What Does Clothing Say about a Society?

Does it really matter what people who lived thousands of years ago wore? I mean, we're probably not going to go back and relive their style, right? From one perspective, that's true! The exact styles of clothing Bronze Age people wore does not really matter. However, what does matter is what their clothing tells us about culture and society. You see, clothing gives us insights to what the climate was like, the occupations people had, the variety of social levels in society, what people did in their free time and even the average size of people!

When people have enough time and energy to care about what clothes they wear, it shows us that society has advanced enough that the most basic needs are no longer a concern. This is what we see in the Bronze Age, which began around 3000 BCE in Greece and China and around 1900 BCE in northern Europe. The Bronze Age followed the Neolithic Age and was the first time humans used metal. Although only a few complete sets of clothing have survived, they tell us quite a bit about Bronze Age people.

Materials

Before looking at the specific clothing people wore, let's talk about some of the basic materials of Bronze Age clothing. In Europe, most clothing was wool with a simple weave. For the first time, people advanced from using just animal hides to cover themselves. We also see the first use of textile production in the Bronze Age! Leather was used as straps on clothes and shoes. Most clothing was a dark color.

In China, the average person wore clothes woven from hemp; however, silk worms were domesticated by the 3rd millennium BCE, and archaeologists have found remains of ancient silk robes. Because silk was rarer than wool, it was reserved for use by only the wealthier people. By the end of the Bronze Age, the Chinese were even dying the silk various colors to indicate status!

Clothing

An example of what the traditional man would wear in the Bronze Age in Europe. What elements can you identify?

Both men and women in the bronze age wore knee-length gowns with one or two should straps. Men wore cloaks around their shoulders; there are even artifacts of woolen underwear that men in colder climates wore! What do you think the archeologist who discovered that thought? Women wore short-sleeve tops or tunics over their gowns.

Accessories and Lifestyle: Men

The accessories men used tell us about the lifestyle they lived. Razors found indicate that men were clean shaven. Men wore caps made of either knitted thread or animal skin (with the tails attached!). Most people wore shoes. In cold climates, the fur was left on the skin and put on the inside of the shoes to help keep men warm. In other areas, shoes were intricately designed; the fur was removed with a razor and tweezers, then pieces of the shoe were sewn together. There are also records that indicate men's shoes had shoelaces!

Many men wore leather bets with scabbards attached to hold swords. Bowmen wore leather wrist-guards to protect their arms from the string of the bow.

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