What type of clothing did medieval knights wear?

Updated April 17, 2017

Knights wore more than just armour. Various pieces of clothing integrated seamlessly into the armour, protecting the knight both from the battlefield and adverse weather conditions. Knight clothing styles worn in battle were mostly designed to be practical, though some aspects of the clothing allowed the knight to develop a unique style, especially during tournaments.


Clothing was an important part of the knight's overall suit, given that the armour would heat up in the sun and burn the knight without the insulation provided by the clothing. The metal and cloth often intertwined together, providing both added protection and comfort. Knights wore a linen undershirt and linen underpants, called a gipoun, to provide comfort. Only part of the gipoun showed. Laces on the back and the sides were tightened so that the gipoun held the body tightly. Otherwise, the armour would cut into the knight's skin and cause irritation.


Knights usually wore a garment over the clothing that was called either "Aketon," "Hacketon," "Arming coat," "Doublet" or "Gamberson." The coat was quilted and sewn or stuffed with grass or linen. This garment was extra padding for the knight. Knights often had a long cloak. Cloaks protected the wearer from the rain, wind and cold. The Medieval poet Chaucer described the knight in the Canterbury Tales as wearing a tunic made out of coarse cloth. The tunic was called a "fustian." Fustians were cheaper alternatives.


Knight wore a robe called the "surcoat," over the armour. Surcoats had the coat of arms that identified the knight on the battlefield. The coat of arms was a symbol that helped knights identify each other on the battlefield. The coat of arms was placed on the shield, surcoat and a banner, in a practice known as "heraldry." Robes were tied around the waist. Long bands attached to the sleeves, sometimes fastened at the collar by a buckle. Knights wore a necklace made from two similar bands. Surcoats were open at the bottom to provide ventilation and to allow the knights to relieve themselves.


Knights often wore hats or headdresses, which determined the knight's rank. The hat sometimes had a point on the top where a streamer was attached. Knights used belts with no hangings in front. They sometimes used a purse that hung from the belt by a cord of silk, cotton or metal.


The knight wore woollen stockings to keep his feet and legs warm. The knight's shoes were closed and later versions were pointed. Shoes were usually made out of leather. The kinds of leather most commonly used in the Middle Ages were tanned leather and tawed skin.

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Chuck Robert specializes in nutrition, marketing, nonprofit organizations and travel. He has been writing since 2007, serving as a ghostwriter and contributing to online publications. Robert holds a Master of Arts with a dual specialization in literature and composition from Purdue University.