Medieval men did not wear tights – at least not as we know them today...


Medieval codes of modesty required that a man's legs be covered. This was achieved by wearing tight-fitting tubes of cloth (hose). These can simply be described as socks that became so long that they served to cover almost the entire leg. Fundamentally, the reason why the socks got longer and became hose is that as tailoring improved, the tunics worn above became shorter and better fitting requiring greater coverage below.


Hose cover the legs much as tights do, except that the covering for each leg is a separate piece which is then tied onto the baggy under shorts worn above. These were called braises and vaguely resemble a plain pair of boxer shorts. As these socks increased in their length and coverage that of the braises above them shrank correspondingly. Braises eventually evolved into underpants as we know them today.


At the opposite end, each leg would normally terminate in a foot piece which is part of the same garment that covers the leg. This may have merely been made of the same cloth as the rest of the leg or have been reinforced. This could occur through a flat piece of leather being sewn onto the bottom of the foot piece or even being partially wrapped around the foot. It is assumed that commonly a pad of some description would be fixed to the underside of the foot piece if only to stop ones expensive hose from quickly becoming worn out when walking unshod (as was fairly common).

Alternately, hose could simply end at the ankle (fairly uncommon) or end in a leather stirrup, which would run under the foot and leave the heel and toes free. There was also a range of separate, additional, pieces of footwear which may have also been worn.


For re-creators of medieval costume and combat it is clear that while being not quite the same, modern tights are a fair facsimile of these, their medieval counterparts – so long as they are not made of fluorescent lycra that is.


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