Traditional Pirate Attire

Real Life Facts About Pirates

Are you curious about what clothing pirates wore during their hay day? A standard image that comes to mind is a man wearing a baggy white shirt, striped pants, a vest, and possibly a bandana to cover his hair. Is this accurate? Did all pirates dress the same or was there variety in their attire? Read below to find out more.

Pirate Captains

During the early 1700’s, a typical outfit for a man included a shirt, vest, suit, coat, and short tight pants known as breeches.  The shirt was a baggier version of a modern man’s shirt, and they wore a long, narrow strip of cloth that was around the neck and tucked down the front of the vest instead of a modern day tie. Hats were generally black and wide brimmed with the brim fastened up on three sides.  As this style of clothing was standard for middle class men, this also become the attire of ship captains. This also included pirate captains who often started their careers as lower ranked sailors. Most of their clothes were stolen from upper class men aboard the ships that they confiscated.

Pirate Crew Attire

In comparison to pirate captains, the common sailors wore much more casual clothing. As the crew was responsible for the hard labor of hauling lines and lifting cargo, they had no need to wear restrictive coats or vests. The short, tight breeches were also too confining for their daily work, and preferred long, looser trousers instead.  To allow for ocean breezes to cool them off from their sweaty work, they often left the shirt open at the neck and went barefoot. The hat, however was essential to protect them from the sun. If no hat was available, a scarf was used alone or under the hat as a sweatband to keep the sweat out of their eyes. Sailors also commonly wore wide, supportive belts that protected their back and internal organs from damage that may occur when hard at work.  A pirate sash was worn under the belt to absorb sweat and keep them cool. Being a pirate is hard work! Another laugh worthy detail about pirate costumes is that the pirate’s shirt is never untucked. To reduce bulk under their pants, the pirates went without underwear.

Pirate Jewelry and Key to Heaven

Pirates rarely had opportunities to purchase clothing as they were often at sea, and did not regularly visit ports that had clothing shops. Any repairs needed to their clothing was done with whatever tools they had handy on board. Since most of their goods stolen at sea were trade goods such as fine silks or exotic textiles, sometimes this pricey items were used to patch up holes or tears in their attire.  Another noteworthy fact that set pirates apart from ordinary sailors was jewelry. Rings and necklaces were easily portable wealth and hard to steal since they were on their person. The notorious Bartholomew Roberts was famous for wearing a huge diamond-encrusted gold cross as a souvenir that was stolen from the Spanish royal family. Common sailors obviously did not have access to such luxurious items of jewelry, but a single gold earring was a common piece worn by many pirates. Besides being wearable wealth, a single gold earring had a bigger, more ominous purpose for a pirate. Since life expectancy was not very long during the 18th century, and pirates lived a dangerous lifestyle, the single gold earring was often used to pay for the funeral once deceased. Many people believed that a funeral was required in order to get into heaven, so it was valued as a religious key to the afterlife.

We hope you enjoyed this tale about pirates and their attire. If you’d like to see pirate costume up close and person, make sure to check museums in your area to see if they have a pirate costume collection you can view!