We are in the middle of the “viking wave”. Thanks to TV series like History Channel’s “Vikings”, the historical time period is more popular than ever. More and more people develop an interest for these ancient people, their ways, their clothes, their religion. New movies are released, books are written, and the reenactment community receive more and more people who wish to take part in what they do. There are countless people out there who are more than willing to share their knowledge about the historical period, especially their clothes. So how is it possible that what we see on TV looks nothing like what it did a thousand years ago?
Series like “Game of Thrones” and “Vikings” dictate how other movies and TV series should look. For some strange reason, the popular series affect how everything else is supposed to look. I find this strange, especially since Game of Thrones is a fantasy series that has nothing to do with vikings at all. As for the History Channel’s series, they do not really base their costumes on historical findings.
When it comes to the costumes, Vikings has pretty much nothing that is historical. From the dresses to the armour, it all looks like it belongs in some strange fantasy movie, and not in a series that proclaim to take place in the viking age. From patterns to fabric to detailing, the dresses are either from a couple hundred years in the future, or just wild designs that someone decided would look cool. At least not they are wearing horned helmets.
One would think that productions taking place in Norway of all places would at least look somewhat like the archaeological findings. But no. Birkebeinerne (The Last King in English) was released in the beginning of 2016, and while it is set a couple hundred years after the viking age, the costumes look like they belong in a LARP battle. If they had historical consultants to help them with the costume design, I don’t think they were heard. Again, other more popular series and movies were the influence of the clothing choices, and history is forgotten.
It is not because historical clothes don’t look cool. That cannot be the reason. When properly done, both viking and medieval clothes can be stunning. And you do not have to sew huge metal rings to some strange leather vest to make believable viking armour.
The new humor series Vikingane from norwegian channel NRK is both amusing and well written. Yet you see extras in actual viking clothes, and the main cast in Vikings inspired garb. Why? When surrounded by well dressed people, why insist on putting the strange and impractical clothes on your actors?
There are no such thing as good viking movies, and the reason is simple. Either, the visuals are good, but the writing isn’t the best or the movie is very old. Or, the plot is good, but the visuals and costumes are horrible. I do not understand why it is so hard to put together proper viking costumes. You do not have to have five years in designer school to do it. Thousands of normal people do it, and they do it a lot better than all the TV series and movies combined. I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who are more than willing to help, or even lend out their own equipment.
But what do I know, after all I’m only a viking reenactor and not a creator behind popular movies and TV series. Maybe one day this trend will stop, but I doubt it. As long as no one dares to “do something different” and use actual historical clothing as their inspiration, instead of Vikings and Game of Thrones, I fear we will be stuck in this endless circle of bad viking movies.