Who wore woad?

Answered by Edward Huber

During the medieval period in England, woad was worn by various groups of people. It was commonly used as a dye for clothing, particularly by the lower classes. Woad provided a blue color that was less expensive than other dyes, making it accessible to a wider range of people.

1. Peasants and Commoners:
The lower classes, including peasants and commoners, often wore clothing dyed with woad. Woad was readily available and affordable, making it a popular choice for those who couldn’t afford more expensive dyes. Peasant men and women would wear garments such as tunics and dresses that were dyed with woad to add color and variety to their wardrobe.

2. Soldiers and Warriors:
Woad was also worn by soldiers and warriors during this period. It was commonly used to paint their bodies before battles, serving both practical and symbolic purposes. The blue woad markings on their skin were believed to have intimidating effects on their enemies and instilled a sense of unity among the warriors. This practice was particularly associated with the ancient Britons and Celtic tribes.

3. Nobility and the Elite:
While woad was more commonly worn by the lower classes, there is evidence to suggest that even the nobility and elite occasionally wore clothing dyed with woad. However, it is important to note that they had access to a wider range of dyes and colors, including more expensive imports such as indigo. Woad may have been used by the upper classes as a way to connect with their heritage or to display a sense of patriotism.

4. Religious Figures:
Religious figures, such as monks and nuns, also wore woad-dyed clothing. Monastic orders often produced their own textiles and dyes, and woad was a practical choice due to its availability and affordability. Additionally, the blue color may have held symbolic meaning within religious contexts.

It is worth noting that the use of woad as a dye declined in popularity after the medieval period, as other dyes became more readily available. By the 16th century, woad was primarily used for medicinal purposes rather than as a textile dye.

Woad was worn by a range of individuals in medieval England, with its popularity varying among different social classes. While the lower classes relied on woad as an accessible and affordable dye, even the nobility occasionally incorporated it into their clothing. Additionally, soldiers, warriors, and religious figures also utilized woad for its symbolic and practical qualities.