(If this post is tl;dr, skip to the end where I eventually get to my point and sum it all up.)
Hi! Long time no post! We’ve just moved to Colorado, so life is a little crazy right now. I’m hoping once we’re settled to get a bunch of stuff written that’s been kicking around in my head for a while.
In the meantime, I needed a project. I have to have something for my hands to do. I decided to make my husband a pair of joined hose.
To tell you the honest truth, I hate making hose. They always look droopy off the butt. It doesn’t matter if they’re the one pair I have made, or the ones that he’s bought off the rack, they droop when he’s standing and pull too much on the back points when he’s trying to bend over. If we buy them, then it’s not my fault. Right? (Otherwise I’m very happy with all of the hose we’ve bought over the counter, and I do suggest it to others.)
But enough is enough! There must be a way. I used to hate making sleeves, too, so I decided to get really good at it and now I can do it in my sleep. Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder and her buttonholes?
I have ideas about hose, and how to make them work better. But I’m not very far along in my project yet, so I’ll save them for a future post. In the meantime, it seems as if I’ve been involved in many discussions as of late regarding dating on different hose styles.
The best answer? It’s hard to tell. But I’ve been finding more clues lately.
First, some definitions.
1. Chausses: Chausses are earlier incarnations of hose, worn throughout the 14th century, and into the 15th, especially by lower classes and laborers. If you know French, you know that chaussettes means socks. They’re long socks, cut out of woven fabric on the bias, coming to a point at the hip, where they’re tied to braies (undies) or a braie-girdle (belt). Other arrangements are possible, too. Essentially, they’re wool thigh highs for your man. Oh, yeah.
Chausses look like this:
2. Split hose: A lot of people confuse split hose with chausses (which people often just call hose, just to make things so much more confusing), so reenactors have developed other terms to refer to them. I’ve been taught the term “tailed hosen”. I’ve also referred to them as “butt-covering split hosen,” or BCSH. I happen to love this term. Anyway, split hose do just that, they cover the butt. They come up to a low waist (like where a teenage girl wears her jeans) covering all around, except for the *ahem* center front, and they’re not connected to each other. The two legs are still separated, hence the name. If a man weren’t wearing braies with these, he’d be swingin’ in the breeze. They’re held up to a torso garment with points, or laces, at the front hips, side, back, and center back.
Split hose look like this (later than 14th c., but gives you the idea):
3. Joined hose: These take the split hose one step further. They’re joined from the waist in the back until somewhere under the body. At this point, a codpiece, or flap of fabric, is sewn in, which when pointed (laced) into place, covers everything personal. A man could get away with wearing joined hose without braies, and you wouldn’t have to call the police.
Joined hose look like this:
And from the back, you can see that they were even a little droopy back then. In other words, they don’t have to perform like Levis.
That all out of the way, when did people start wearing split and joined hose?
Chausses are very common in reenactment and recreation circles, because they’re fairly easy to make, cheap to buy, and easy to wear. There are no problems bending down. However, unless they’re very well tailored, under a short doublet your braies are going to show, resulting in the dreaded “diaper look.” Nobody wants this. If you’re wearing chausses, keep your doublet or gown long. Please.
Split hose seem to be safe to wear by about the last two decades of the 14th century, but based on what? There are images of men with short doublets, and they’re certainly not sporting the diaper look. This seems like good justification. But how early?
I just received my copy of the excellent book the Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450 – 1450. In the hose entry, there’s a description of the butt-covering split hose:
“As the 14th century progressed men’s hose were often tied to their gipon (jupon). This is confirmed by comments made by John of Reading in his Chronica which he was writing at some point between 1366 and 1369. Here he describes the hose as being very long and tied very tightly to the doublet so making it very difficult for the wearer to kneel down.”
Additionally, we have the Charles de Blois pourpoint, which is dated to pre-1364 if it did actually belong to the Duke. The pourpoint has laces sewn in around the circumference of the garment. That is, these laces are almost certainly intended to support a pair of split hose, or even joined hose. We don’t have additional evidence for joined hose at this time, so it’s safe to assume that they’re at least split hose.
Between the visual evidence of short doublets with no diaper look (all cultures), the textual evidence (English), and the likely archaeological evidence (French), it seems safe to assume that if you’re aiming at post-1360s and wearing a short doublet, you can probably be wearing butt covering split hose.
But what about joined hose? This is a little trickier. When looking at some images, if the man is facing away, it’s virtually impossible to tell whether they’re a pair of split hose that are close together, or a pair of joined hose.
Another consideration is the textual description in the Parson’s Tale, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, describing how men wearing their short doublets show off their genitalia and buttocks in a lewd manner. This is often read as evidence that the short doublets are showing off uncovered, or little covered, parts of the male anatomy. It is supposed that the hose don’t cover what needs to be covered, but only the braies do. Read it for yourself.
Middle English version:
The Parson’s Tale, Lines 422 – 430.
Upon That oother side, to speken of the horrible disordiant scantnesse of
clothyng, as been thise Kutted sloppes, or haynselyns, that thurgh hire
Shortnesse ne covere nat the shameful membres of man, to wikked entente. Allas!
somme Of hem shewen the boce or hir shap, and the Horrible swollen membres, that
semeth lik the Maladie of hirnia, in the wrappynge of hir Hoses; and eek the
buttokes of hem faren as It were the hyndre part of a she-ape in the fulle Of
the moone. And mooreover, the wrecched Swollen membres that they shewe thurgh
disgisynge, in departynge of hire hoses in whit and Reed, semeth that half hir
shameful privee Membres weren flayne. And if so be that They departen hire hoses
in othere colours, As is whit and blak, or whit and blew, or blak And reed, and
so forth, thanne semeth it, as By variaunce of colour, that half the partie of
Hire privee membres were corrupt by the fir Of seint antony, or by cancre, or by
oother Swich meschaunce. Of the hyndre part of hir Buttokes, it is ful horrible
for to see. For certes, In that partie of hir body ther as they purgen Hir
stynkynge ordure, that foule partie shewe They to the peple prowdly in despit of
honestitee, which honestitee that jhesu crist and His freendes observede to
shewen in hir lyve.
Modern English version:
And on the other hand, one may speak of the horrible, inordinate scantiness of some clothes, like the short jackets that are so short that they leave a man’s cock exposed to view beneath his hose, with wicked intention. Alas! Some of them clearly reveal a man’s horrible swollen balls and his cock like some malignant hernia visible through his hose! His buttocks are displayed like those of a she-ape at the time of the full moon! Even worse, these wretched swollen members can look, if the hose is divided into red and white, as though half the sexual organs have been flayed! If it happens that the hose is patterned in other colours, like white and black or white and blue, or black and red and so forth, then it seems, through this variation in colour, that half of the privy members are engulfed in Saint Antony’s fire, or racked with cancer or some other such misfortune. By exposing their horrible buttocks they proudly display, to all who care to look, that part of their body from which they expel their stinking shit, in defiance of all modesty – the kind of modesty that Jesus Christ and his friends were careful to preserve all their lives.
Translation from http://www.eleusinianm.co.uk/redShalfleet/rs44priests.html
To be honest, I don’t read this as chausses, or even split hose. Take this part, something is covering (I’ll use the translator’s word) the cock:
the Horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the Maladie of hirnia, in the wrappynge of hir Hoses.
Or as the modern English describes, you can see his balls and cock through the “wrappings of his hose.” Through the hose fabric. The hose fabric is covering the cock and balls!
Reading further, if the hose is parti-colored, that is a different color on each side, it makes a man’s manly parts look like *they* have a different color on each side.
This is all written pre-1400, and English.
Visual evidence of joined hose is what prompted me to write this right now. I wanted to SHARE WITH THE WORLD!
Look at that! (Yes, I’m asking you to look at the man’s crotch.)
Information on this image:
Artwork: Illumination, Illustration Cycle Seal V 7150ff; miniature; Wenzel Workshop, Prague
Documentation: 1387, 1387, Vienna, Austria, Vienna, Austrian National Library, cod. s n 2643, fol. 204r
Notes: Wolfram von Eschenbach. Willehalm actually Ulrich door of home.
More information on the manuscript at http://tethys.imareal.oeaw.ac.at/realonline/
There’s always a chance the date is wrong, of course, but a quick perusal of the manuscript leads me to believe that it’s close, at least.
This is the part where I get to my point and sum up
Wear chausses for early 14th century, or later, if your gown, tunic, or doublet are long.
Wear butt-covering split hose for 1360s and beyond, if your doublet is higher than about mid-thigh. Avoid the diaper look!
Wear joined hose from the late 14th century and beyond, especially if your doublet is short. If Chaucer was offended by seeing the shape of your manly bits below your hose, imagine if there was only a thin layer of linen! Save our eyes!
These are, of course, gross generalizations that are my opinion only, and there’s much more research to be done.
I wish to thank Sherrie Andra Keller for posting the Bohemian image on the Facebook Age of the Cotehardie page today, asking about something completely different in the image. I also thank the other fine folks on that group who discovered the provenance of the manuscript. I’d like to give mad props to the guys at the Armour Archive for asking about joined and split hose vs. chausses just as I happened to embark upon Jeff’s hose project, which spurred me into putting together more of what I’ve gathered on the topic over the years.