What Did Pirates Wear?

The typical pirate outfit consisted of breeches or trousers, knitted caps, waistcoats, stockings, linen shirts and shoes. Pirate clothing, commonly referred to as slops, outfitted men on land and at sea. Although pirates wore the same basic outfits, variation existed among the materials and fabrics used to make their clothes.

Pirates, as with other members of society, came from different socioeconomic backgrounds. They dressed according to class and social status. Wealthy and elite pirates wore fine materials while poor pirates did not. The typical pirate uniform emerged during the early 1600s, when pirates found employment in large numbers. The British Admiralty codified pirate uniforms in 1628 to identify pirates from other members of society. As with modern seafaring people, pirates relied on sturdy, warm and durable clothing to stay comfortable and dry at sea. The breeches and trousers came in thick canvas material while shirts and underwear were linen. Pirates, like other people in the 17th century, wore caps made from wool as required by English law. In addition to wool and canvas, pirate clothing derived from cotton, leather and sheepskin. However, pirates, particularly captains, donned clothing made from silk, damask, velvet and other fine materials when away from their ships. They dressed in brighter colors on shore, too, and often completed outfits with feathers and exotic decorative items.