What Did the Algonquians Wear?

Because the Algonquian peoples were made up of many distinct nations (Algonquian, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cree to name only a few), dress would vary from tribe to tribe. However, there were some significant similarities, particularly in the wearing of moccasins as footwear (both men and women) and the use of breechcloths with leather leggings for men.

Most Algonquian women wore dresses or skirts, sometimes with removable sleeves. Both women and men tended to wear their hair in long braids, though men sometimes shaved their heads partially as well. Warriors would put their hair up in Mohawks, using grease as a stiffening agent to achieve the right shape. For head decoration, women sometimes wore head bands or cloth caps.

Men in the northern Algonquian tribes wore shirts, tunics or mantles, whereas men in southern or western tribes often chose to go shirtless. In cold weather, Algonquians wore fur pelts that covered half the length of the body. Algonquians living on the Great Plains began wearing feather headdresses by the 19th century, a cultural practice they may have borrowed from neighboring Sioux peoples.

In the eastern part of the United States, Algonquians also sometimes borrowed from their European neighbors, wearing jackets for men and blouses for women, though they would frequently decorate them with beads.

Like many other Native American peoples, Algonquian tribes also wore war paint (during campaign), as well as tattoos and other forms of festive decoration depending on occasion. Paint was made from substances such as charcoal, soot, berries and local roots.