Viking hairstyles, particularly braids, hold a rich tapestry of historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance.
For Viking women, braids were a blend of practicality and decoration, often styled in a herringbone or fishtail pattern.
While Viking men were mostly short-haired, long hair or braids might have been sported by some depending on status and personal preferences.
Hairstyles possibly conveyed symbolic meanings, communicating information about marital status, wealth, or social roles.
Moreover, the Vikings were known for their hygiene, as attested by archaeological evidence of grooming tools, suggesting that regular hair care, including maintaining braids, was integral to Viking life.
While popular culture often depicts Vikings with elaborate hairstyles and braids, it’s crucial to approach these portrayals with a grain of salt, as they are often based more on artistic license than historical fact.
That said, hair was indeed an important aspect of Viking culture, and there’s evidence that both men and women paid attention to their hairstyles.
1. Viking Women’s Braids: For Viking women, long hair was a sign of femininity, and they often wore it loose or in simple styles. Braids, however, were indeed part of their hairstyling repertoire.
They wore braids, known as “herringbone” or “fishtail” braids, which had multiple strands intricately woven together.
This hairstyle was practical, keeping hair out of the way during daily tasks, while also offering a form of adornment.
2. Viking Men’s Braids: For Viking men, there’s less historical evidence of braids. Men typically had shorter hair, sometimes shaved at the back, with longer hair on top.
That said, it’s possible that some Viking men may have had longer hair or even braids, but this would likely have varied depending on personal preference, status, and local customs.
3. Symbolic Significance: In many cultures, hair, and hairstyles can carry symbolic meaning, and it’s likely that this was also the case for the Vikings.
While we don’t have definitive evidence of what these meanings might have been, it’s plausible that hairstyles could have conveyed information about a person’s marital status, wealth, or social role.
4. Hair Care: The Vikings were known for their cleanliness compared to many other societies at the time.
They manufactured and used combs, tweezers, and razors made of bone or antlers.
The presence of these tools, particularly combs, in archaeological sites suggests that regular grooming, including the maintenance of braids, was a part of Viking life.
The popularity of “Viking braids” in modern fashion and media speaks more to our contemporary fascination with the Vikings than to historical accuracy. However, it does highlight the enduring influence of Viking culture and aesthetics.
1. Viking Women’s Braids:
Women in Viking society were often depicted with long, loose hair, symbolizing femininity and beauty. However, it is quite likely that for practical reasons, during work or inclement weather, they would secure their hair.
The herringbone or fishtail braids would have been an ideal solution.
This style, made by weaving multiple strands of hair together in a pattern that resembles a fish skeleton, is sturdy and keeps hair contained.
Braiding the hair this way might also have been seen as a decorative element, demonstrating the skill and patience of the woman or person who braided it.
2. Viking Men’s Braids:
The concept of Viking men with braided hair is largely a fabrication of modern pop culture and media.
Historical evidence suggests that Viking men typically had shorter hair, sometimes longer on top and shorter or even shaved at the back.
It’s believed this style could have been adopted for practical reasons, such as convenience in battle, where long hair could be a liability.
That said, it’s not entirely out of the question that some men, especially those of high status or with specific personal preferences, may have sported longer hair or braids.
3. Symbolic Significance:
Hairstyles often carried symbolic meaning in ancient cultures. Though we have limited specific evidence about this for the Vikings, it’s plausible that hairstyles, including braids, might have communicated important social signals.
For example, certain hairstyles might have denoted a woman’s marital status.
A girl might wear her hair loose or in simple braids, and upon marriage, her hairstyle could change to signal her new status.
Likewise, a man’s hairstyle might reflect his social standing or accomplishments.
The complexity of a braid might also have been a sign of wealth or status, as intricate braids would require more time and skill to create, which could be a luxury not everyone could afford.
4. Hair Care:
The Vikings are often mistakenly portrayed as dirty or unkempt, but archaeological evidence suggests that they were much more interested in personal hygiene than they are typically given credit for.
Combs were common items in Viking graves, pointing to regular grooming practices.
These combs, often made from bone or antler, would have been used to keep hair free of dirt and parasites, as well as to maintain braids and other hairstyles. Combs were so important that they were often carried in a pouch at the belt.
In addition to combs, archaeological finds have included tweezers, razors, and even ear spoons, showing that the Vikings took personal grooming seriously.
While there’s much we don’t know about Viking hairstyles and their significance, the evidence we do have paints a picture of a people who cared about their appearance and saw hairstyles as an important element of personal and social identity.
Like the artwork they created, the hairstyles of the Vikings tell us about their aesthetics, their social structures, and their daily lives.
Q1: Did all Viking women wear braids? A: While Viking women often had long hair, it’s likely they wore it in a variety of styles, depending on the occasion, weather, and personal preference. Braids were certainly part of their hairstyling repertoire, as they were practical for daily tasks and also served as an adornment.
Q2: Did Viking men wear braids? A: While the image of Viking men with braided hair is popular in modern media, historical evidence suggests Viking men typically wore their hair short. However, there could have been exceptions depending on personal preference, status, and local customs.
Q3: Did Viking hairstyles carry any symbolic significance? A: Although definitive evidence is lacking, it’s plausible that hairstyles could have conveyed information about a person’s marital status, wealth, or social role, much like in many other cultures.
Q4: Did Vikings care about hair hygiene? A: Yes, the Vikings were known for their cleanliness, and grooming tools such as combs, tweezers, and razors were common archaeological finds, indicating that hair care was a regular part of Viking life.
Q5: How has the perception of Viking braids changed in modern times? A: Modern pop culture often depicts Vikings with intricate hairstyles and braids. While these portrayals are based more on artistic interpretation than historical fact, they highlight the enduring influence of Viking culture and aesthetics.