Landsknecht Men, Short Hosen, and the Display of Bare Legs: Fact or Fiction?

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Middle Kingdom Arts & Sciences Competition, in which I was both an entrant (for my goldhaube) and a judge. This was my first experience judging and it was most illuminating. The first entry I judged was a Landsknect man’s outfit by THL Errc Glaison (read his blog here). The outfit was composed of a tellerbarret, haube, wams, hosen, and hemd. The hosen were short, very short … as in, they were what we would mundanely call shorts here in the U.S. Here is a photo of Errc’s Landsknecht outfit:

Landsknecht Outfit by Errc Glaison

I’ve heard a number of people question whether or not a Landsknecht man would parade about with his legs bare. It seems shocking to some. Didn’t people “back in the day” have issues — religious, social, or moral — in showing their skin in such a manner? Sure, there are images of men wearing something that looks like this, but how do we know this was bare skin and not just very tight hosen? For example, here are some images of Landsknecht men clearly wearing short hosen:

“Nerlingen” Landsknecht als -- Fahnenschwinger. -- Holzschnitt / Woodcut (Lansquenet) : 1545

“Nerlingen” Landsknecht als — Fahnenschwinger. — Holzschnitt / Woodcut (Lansquenet) : 1545


landsknecht arq bare leg

Some of those images show what looks like hair on the bare thigh, but one could question if that is the coarse hair of woolen hosen rather than skin. How can we be sure they would really have had bare legs? Take a look at this detail from Michal Feselen’s History of Cloelia (1529):

Detail from Michal Feselen's History of Cloelia - 1529

Detail from Melchior Feselen’s “Cloelia Before Porsenna” – 1529

Not only can one very clearly see hair on his flesh-colored legs, but there’s a distinctive pattern to the hair growth typical of, well, a man’s hairy legs!

I rest my case.

In all seriousness, I made this post so I would not forget and so that others, who may be wondering one day, have an answer to this burning question. I think it was more typical for unterhosen to be worn under the hosen, rather than not, but clearly it was acceptable on some level for a proud Lansknecht man to go about in public with bare legs.

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2 Responses to Landsknecht Men, Short Hosen, and the Display of Bare Legs: Fact or Fiction?

  1. Celia Vencil says:

    Scandulous to be sure! lol Thanks for the info!

  2. Lady Cate says:

    With legs that good looking they should be shown off! LOL

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