What Did Roman Slaves Wear?

Slaves in ancient Rome wore tunics, usually made of cheap wool sewn together in a tube shape with holes for the arms. The tunic came down to the knees and was worn with a belt.

The quality of slaves’ clothing varied depending on the status and wealth of their owners. House slaves with wealthier owners and those slaves who worked as teachers or artists typically wore better-quality fabrics than slaves who worked in menial jobs. The appearance of slaves of wealthy owners was felt to reflect on their owners. Female slaves known as ornatrices were responsible for creating fancy hairstyles and were considered very valuable.

Slaves who worked rowing Roman galleys typically wore loincloths. Slaves who worked on farms wore tunics and wooden shoes; they were given new tunics each year and shoes after two years. Their heads were shaved, with the hair used to make wigs.

Gladiators were also slaves, and they wore loincloths known as subligaculum, as well as whatever armor they were assigned for their gladiatorial battles. Gladiators were allowed to keep some of their winnings, and often bought better clothing. However, neither gladiators nor any other slaves were allowed to wear togas; even though togas are thought of as the mark of ancient Rome, they were reserved for citizens only.