History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

16 March 2007

The Trouble With Braies

In the Middle Ages, the style of western men's underwear changed for the worse---especially for romance writers.

By the 13th century, underwear “advanced” from the traditional, hot-looking loincloth favored by the Romans and other ancients, to the loose, linen underwear called braies (see image to the right; this medieval fellow has stripped to his braies while he works in the fields). The example I’ve posted here is often cited as one of the best, but believe me if you go looking for more you will be haunted forever with historical images of poor souls who have been tortured, burned at the stake, crucified, or hung in their braies.

Sometimes, research can just lead to too much information.

The almost trouser-like braies were stepped into, rolled around the waist and then laced or tied with a cord. They were voluminous, slit up the sides so you could tie them up if you needed to, and the hem ended just below the knees, at about mid-calf. I dunno, maybe they kept people warmer in the dank climate of ye olde England?

To braies I say, ugh. Even the word bugs me. It’s hard to spell and it looks funny (braies, or braes?).

There was (is) something inherently sexy about loincloths, but braies just don’t do it for me. As a historical author, I have to dress my hero knights in the pitiful things. I respect historical accuracy but, IMO braies look like pantaloons, and some shorter versions look like diapers. Let’s face it, braies aren’t sexy. I’d rather have my knight go commando when he has to undress for the love scene, than to have him fool with taking off his goofy-looking underwear. If you want to see a photograph of live man in a set of braies (with the hose-type stockings called chausses attached) check out the Society For Creative Anachronism's website: http://www.randyasplund.com/browse/medieval/chauss2.html.

Warning, it might be a mental image you’d rather not keep.


Blogger Unknown said...

Ok, they are utterly goofy. But then so are modern tighty-whiteies IMO. There's just NOTHING sexy about a man in those (the longer bike-short-like ones however . . . ).

There are are examples of shorter braies that look better. I'll see if I can find some (and double check which era they're from).

8:41 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Wow. Are underwear really that technologically advanced? You'd think they could have come up with some drawstring boxer thing, at least for the sexier men. *grin*

The good news is, when you say braies in your book, most people really don't know what it means!

9:14 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ok, they're not shorter, I was wrong. They're tucked in to chauses (the leggings that will eventually become the first pants). And it helps that the guy has a nice body . . . I don't find this unsexy at all. LOL!


8:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Stupid blogger! Let's try that link again!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

I might be able to conjure up a sexy knight in braies if I just think about him in cargo pants.

Some men would look hot in just about anything.


Chausses help. Outlines long, delicous looking legs!

12:08 PM  
Blogger Evangeline Holland said...

Considering that most romance heroes rarely wear underclothes or bedclothes, I'd say the unattractiveness or attractiveness of their undergarments is a moot point. *G* Heck, as I'm sure Kalen can attest, most women in historicals rarely wear the correct foundation garments!!

3:32 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Yep, Camilla, I agree about most historical heros just not wearing underwear. That's been my solution . . . that way I can avoid offending: 1. readers who are put off by the word braies (as Victoria says, many will not know what the word means), and 2. I won't bother readers who do know what what braies are (but prefer the alternate spelling, raes).

Yep, the best solution is to just go commando, and that's okay. It's a lot more fun that way. ;-)

9:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

most romance heroes rarely wear underclothes or bedclothes, I'd say the unattractiveness or attractiveness of their undergarments is a moot point . . . most women in historicals rarely wear the correct foundation garments!!

Yes, but that's one of my major PROBLEMS with many romance novels, and not something I'd go with as a solution.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jessica Trapp said...

This is a great post! Thanks!

12:17 PM  
Blogger 2cairnterriers said...

how silly! if ppl don't know what a word means, they should look it up! that's the beauty of *historical* fiction--educatiinal as well as enjoyable! ❣

12:30 PM  
Blogger 2cairnterriers said...

oops! typo!

12:31 PM  

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