I mentioned in an earlier post that I would write about myths about the Vikings. One of the biggest myths is that the Vikings were dirty and unwashed. Everything is relative, of course, and compared to people of today who shower every day and use tons of beauty products, they may seem rather poorly groomed.
But compared to their contemporaries – not to mention people who lived a couple of hundred years later when washing was considered life threatening – the Vikings were very cleanly. Archaeologists have found a large number of tweezers, combs, nail cleaners, ear cleaners and tooth picks.
There are also reports to support idea of the clean Vikings, like this one from John of Wallingford:
Apparently the incoming Danes “…caused much trouble to the natives of the land; for they were wont, after the fashion of their country, to comb their hair every day, to bathe every Saturday, to change their garments often, and set off their persons by many frivolous devices. In this matter they laid siege to the virtue of the married woman, and persuaded the daughters even of the noble to be their concubines“.
Long in the front, short in the back
Paintings show Vikings with well combed hair and beards. Like today, men in the Viking age had a number of different hair styles and one style that might seem particularly strange today was the one where they had long hair only in the front of the head and short hair in the back – a reversed mullet, so to speak. Women usually had long hair, often pulled up in a knot braided with colorful pieces of cloth. Some sources suggest that brunettes would bleach their hair and that some men dyed their beards red.
Slaves usually had very short hair or even shaved heads.