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For authenticity purposes it is important that kit, costume, weaponry and character be consistent for the status a member wishes to portray. Early medieval society was much more complicated and hierarchical than modern Britain. People were expected to know their place, defer to their betters and act responsibly for their inferiors. Social mobility was possible, but generally quite modest, rising generation by generation rather than the ‘rags to riches’ of the American dream. For convenience the Vikings Society's kit guides distinguish five main status-groups. This is a gross over-simplification of very structured societies, but it makes life easier.

Level 1: Slaves and semi-free/tied peasantry (very low status).
Level 2: Free men, tenant farmers, small holders, apprentices, regular craftsmen, local traders (lower status).
Level 3: Local community leaders (or leading local family), their retinue, master craftsmen, regional traders (higher status).
Level 4: Nobility, their retinue, bishops, long distance traders, royal huscarls, reeves. (very high status).
Level 5: Ealdormen/eorls, archbishops, kings and their families (Scripted Actors Only).

This doesn’t leave any room for a ‘middle class’, which may seem a bit odd as many people want their character to be middle class (understandable – it’s the way we think today). We would like to sharpen the distinction between ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ status, so the difference between the requirements for ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ status kit is clear. We’ve deliberately said “higher” and “lower” rather than “high” and “low” to allow room for debate, flexibility etc, as this approach simplifies a complicated society.

Focus Very low status
Level 1
Lower status
Level 2
Higher status
Level 3
Very high status
Level 4
Description Slavery was a normal part of early medieval life. Slaves could be captured or traded from abroad, but often came from the same country. In an age where crop failure and famine was not uncommon, if you couldn’t afford to feed yourself, it was better to commend yourself to someone else who was then duty-bound to look after you. The freedom to starve isn’t all that attractive… This class includes low-status dependents who were tied to their lord’s estate, with no property to feed themselves from. They exchanged their labour for his generosity. They could be skilled and trusted workers, but were “unfree”. covers the majority of the population – Free men, tenant farmers, small holders, apprentices, regular craftsmen, local traders.

Freedmen (leysingir) remained dependent on their lord, often for a number of generations, receiving board, lodging and clothing in return for labour. Free men varied widely in wealth and status. Some had their own estates and were responsible for their own households, but were unable to sell or bequeath their land, i.e. effectively tenants of their lord.

these are local Community leaders (or members of a leading local family). For raiding Vikings it is most likely the younger sons with no heritage prospects.

Tenth century England saw considerable social change, with the emergence of a class of modest landowners – the thegnly class (effectively ‘gentry’ or minor aristocracy), each holding five hides of land (roughly 600 acres). Also covers any retinue of the local leader, Master craftsmen and regional traders.

This covers men of substance, who owned landed estates or long distance business and trading ventures. In England the spectrum of noble (eorlisc) men went from five-hide thegns through to the most powerful ealdormen. In Scandinavia this covers royal huscarls and the jarls. It also includes the warrior-retainers who followed these great lords as his companions and bodyguards. Since they ate at their lord’s table, accompanied him to court meetings and lived at his side, they would be dressed and equipped to the best of his ability, to reflect his importance and wealth.
Combat Non-combatant: Water carrier.
If an enemy warrior approaches a non-combatant character, they should run away.
Non-combatant: Slinger, Archer.
If an enemy warrior approaches a non-combatant character, they should run away.
Combatant Combatant
Weapons N/A Bow or sling. The full range of weapons (except sling) as appropriate for show event timeline.
Fabric colours Fabrics should ideally be un-dyed natural colours (browns and greys for wool), no whites. Fabrics should ideally be un-dyed natural colours (browns and greys for wool), no whites. Other colours should be light, muted, ideally faded or washed out. Fabrics may be in relatively rich colours, but reds and blues should be light or muted. Stronger colours can be used, but must be achievable by vegetable-dyeing methods – anything which could be described as “day-glo” is unacceptable.


It is very important that all kit and costume is consistent with the character portrayed. For higher status, this means displaying wealth through rich colours, embroidery, decoration, use of silver and gold, owning weapons and armour. For lower status, this means practicality and care, simplicity and serviceability, with items well-looked after and repaired.

This does mean that someone wanting to fight with a sword and chainmail armour should have or aspire to higher status kit. Simply having the weapons is not enough!


This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.