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(Be ye Swedish.)
Making a 16th Century Swede, or, the clothes of those who fought against and alongside Landsknechts in the North
I have just begun, in the past few months, delving into a new area of deep interest for me, and it's incredible how things have come full-circle for me. My Mother has always been interested in genealogy, and found many of our German and Finnish ancestors having to do with the early history of Sweden, my home. One was even a Hauptmann of a company of Landsknechts, which was an incredible discovery in and of itself because I have been studying and trying to recreate Landsknecht history for awhile. Even more amazing was the fact that he was hired by Swedish nobles to fight in the war against the Union of Kalmar for the freedom of Sweden.
Landsknechts had much to do with the formation of Sweden as its own state. They were hired by Danes to fight rebellious Swedish peasants at the turn of the 16th century. Many were then hired by Swedish counts and nobles (among them the first Swedish king, Gustav Vasa) to help in the war against the Union of Kalmar for the freedom of Sweden. As a result of this, the Danish kings Kristian II and Fredrik I, along with many Danish counts, hired Landsknechts to suppress this revolution. Even after Sweden became a state of its own, the new king Gustav Vasa hired Landsknechts to suppress Swedish peasant rebellions.
The Landsknecht Paul Dolnstein wrote in his diary about fighting the Swedes in a campaign in 1502:
We were 1800 Germans and we were attacked by 15,000 Swedish farmers. God gave us victory and we struck most of them dead. We were all wearing breast and back plates, skullcaps and arm defences, and they had crossbows and good pikes made from swords. Afterwards, the King of Denmark knighted us all and id us great honour and paid us well and let us return over the sea in 1503. I, PaulDolnstein was there and Sir Sigmund List was our Obrist.
He also wrote of their appearance, describing their baggy pants, outmoded helmets (kettle helmets as seen in his sketches), snapsacks, sword-staffs, and crossbows.
Here is a bit of an outline of early-renaissance (about 1500-1550) Swedish clothing. Since they seemed to have been "behind" in the eyes of the Germans, the baggy pants that he was describing was most likely a variation of the ever-common braies that were used in Europe. Braies were a type of underwear and were worn under the legs of hose, but were also worn as the main mode of covering the lower half by peasants working in the fields and at their trades. Since the Swedish fighting forces of the time were mostly made up of peasant farmers, and because their everyday items were out of date compared to contemporary Germans, it would not be a stretch to say that the construction of these pants was about the same as the braies of the 15th and 14th centuries that had been a mainstay of European culture for so long. Another clue pointing to the use of braies is that the depictions show no crotch seams, which is relevant because braies are made up of a single piece of fabric and have no crotch seams. Many have conjectured that the pants they wore were a type of over-pants to cover a set of hose or such, but considering the difficulty and expenses of constructing tight, form-fitting hose, it is more likely that they wore these baggy pants or braies as their main layer for the lower half. If this is true, then, the stockings worn underneath would have been simple woolen fabric sewn (not knitted) stockings. They were most likely made of rough and naturally colored linen, which has been a staple of Scandinavian clothing for millennia; this is also supported by the images of the Swedes in which their baggy pants were often very wrinkled.
In reference to an early 17th century depiction of the peasant rebel leader Nils Dacke, it seems that they wore a type of tie of bandwoven construction just below the knee to hold the baggy pants up; but this must be taken with a grain of salt, as the source is almost a century older than the actual event itself. More often than naught, Swedes were shown as wearing their baggy pants without any type of ties, especially in Paul Dolnstein's diary. This must be regarded as Dolnstein is a primary witness of the action at the time.
The shoes they wore in the depictions seem to be of the long, tapered "Poulaine" type that was common in the 15th century. It's likely that they were simply an exact model of or a similar iteration of those types of shoes, because of their use of "outdated" clothing.
Shirts were simple, light linen shirts with very little gathering or pleating, if any at all.
The doublets they wore seemed to have been waist-length and rather short, with a single row of buttons or ties hidden on the inside and a small flap on the bottom hem by the waist for show. They were of the slim cut that was popular up until the Elizabethan times, with very narrow and small tab/lower pieces just below the waist that did very little to lengthen the doublet, but did not have the pointy waist; only a more rounded, horizontal, and straight-across waist. The collar was a mid-neck-height vertical standup type. Sleeves were simple sand straight-tube. The image of Nils Dacke displays his doublet of a very dull and natural color, but with comparatively bright red and narrow trim on the hems. Also, Dacke's doublet was long compared to earlier depictions; about hip-length. However, as shown in most of Dolnstein's primary source images, the doublets were only waist-length. Few church depictions show the doublets as having two colors, with the left hand blocks of fabric having a different coloration than the right hand, but this is also to be looked at with skepticism as the church art of the time was very stylized. These would have been of a rough wool.
The depictions by Dolnstein only vaguely show any doublets, but rather show Swedish soldiers wearing breastplates, so it would be acceptable to wear captured German or simple, outdated breastplates. They are also shown wearing kettle hats, which were very common helmets in the 15th century, especially in Germany. Some had eye slits, some did not. There was a very specific onion-shaped Swedish style that is quite well documented, however. Pictures will be included.
They used snapsacks, which was written about in Dolnstein's diary, and almost every sketch by Dolnstein shows the Swedes as wearing snapsacks. They were tied at both ends; the basic construction was a tube of softer leather or heavy linen with hemmed ends, and the ends were bunched and tied with a rope or strap of thin leather to seal the bag. This type of snapsack was common at the time and used commonly up until the 18th century, so it is likely that they were of almost the exact same construction.
They wore thin leather belts of very simple make with one- or two-ring fasteners. They may have been the only decorated pieces of clothing, with rivets, studs, or buttons sewn all around, which is common in the primary source images. On these belts, they wore simple knives and daggers, which were common in Scandinavia and other Germanic lands of the time. The image of Nils Dacke shows him wearing keys on his belt, but this also would have been either artistic license or a nod to his slightly higher-than-peasant status due to his leadership.
Hats, aside from the kettle helmets and the arming caps they wore underneath, as well as chain mail coifs, were not as widely documented. One church image shows the hat as long and pointy, much like a stiff Santa hat. It is unclear what the construction or material these hats were of, although most likely of felted wool, possibly knitted.
Finally, their main weapons of choice remained either the crossbow, bow, or the sword-staff. The sword-staff was a short pike with a sword blade welded on, with various twisted patterns and S-shaped quillions. These are well-documented and quite specific to the area.
While an important consideration, it is not clear what Swedes wore during the wintertime at this point in the research.
It is important to keep in mind while making a set of Swedish soldiers' clothing for the early 16th century that they were peasants and very poor farmers and tradesmen. They had the roughest of linens and wools and the oldest of armor and arms. They had very little flashy coloration but mostly neutral and natural colors, aside from trim. Lastly, they did not slash their clothing at all, despite their heavy contact with the Germans.
This is a very simple set of clothing, and if you are even remotely involved in recreating renaissance history, you may already have the pieces to put together a Swedish outfit right away. This would be a fun and easy persona to do, and as a common enemy and ally of the Landsknechts, you would have much to do and many to do battle with. I'd like to put together a small group of renaissance Swedish reenactors for this purpose, and to back up and put to use my research in the area. I will be continuing my research and giving updates on my progress of the outfit as soon as I return home to Stockholm, where many sources lie in wait for me. I will also be posting more in-depth history on the wars of the era that Sweden was fighting.
Here are a few images:
A Swedish peasant in battle with a Landsknecht, from Paul Dolnstein's diary. Note the snapsack, kettle helmet, Poulaine-style shoes, and swordstaff. Also, a breastplate with a style similar to German armor of the time.
A Swedish battle formation, from Paul Dolnstein's diary. Note the many crossbows alongside the swordstaffs, as well as the breastplates, kettle helmets, and snapsacks.
The image of Nils Dacke.
Church image showing elf-like hat of popcorn style, baggy and crotch-seamless pants, Poulaine style shoes, and suspect doublet of two colors.
To learn how to make braies, look at the following site's "baggy braies" instructions:
To learn how to make a snapsack:
The peasant's poulaine shoes:
A description of a wonderful recreation of the swordstaff (stavsvärd):
A great reproduction of the Swedish style of kettle helmet: