Pilgrims Didn't Just Wear Black and White

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Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

The depiction of Pilgrims dressed only in black and white, wearing hats and shoes adorned with buckles, stems from the popular clothing in late 17th century England. Artistic portrayals turned this fashion into our notion of the Pilgrims' signature style, and that myth has endured to this day.

In fact, historical records of Pilgrims’ clothing—like the passenger list of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims' wills—show that the settlers likely had a better sense of style. For starters, they didn’t wear buckled hats, shoes, or belts; buckles were expensive and not even in fashion at that time. Instead, the Pilgrims used much cheaper leather laces to tie up their shoes and hold up their pants. When buckles later became a fashion trend in England, those who couldn't afford them still wore laces, just as the Pilgrims had.

Pilgrims also didn't wear just black and white clothing. Predominately black and gray clothes were reserved for Sundays. The rest of the time, they wore clothes in as many colors as could be achieved with natural dyes. Take, for example, a Pilgrim named Brewster, whose clothing was described in his will as “one blew clothe suit, green drawers, a vilolete clothe coat, black silk stockings, skyblew garters, red grograin suit, red waistcoat, tawny colored suit with silver buttons.”

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