The “Vikings” Trend

Vikingane, NRK 2016

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?

Actual vikings! Photo by Forever West Photography

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.

Vikings, History Channel 2013

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.

Birkebeinerne, 2016

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.

Vallskir Viking Vinar at  Háleygmarked

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.

Vallskir Viking Vinar at Háleygmarked

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?

Vikingane, NRK 2016

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.


11 thoughts on “The “Vikings” Trend

  1. There is always a question when a wave appears : Did the Viking scene grow due to the series on tv , or; was the series embraced by the people (amongst the other 61 series that were out that year), due to a neccessity people already were feeling/needing ? …i rekon the second.
    I rekon fashion becomes such, due to a need of people at the time, not the people that are sublimely pushed into a fashion.
    I second this by stating, that ; there are So Many Options of Fashion all the time. Designers compete to “create” new fashions. In the end, what is embraced is what the people want. Not the other way around.
    But then thats “just my way of looking at it”.


  2. Mik Lawson

    I’ve heard excuses such as the colours are to bright for the screen. Or when dressing the “bad guys” in Black, the Peasentry must be dressed in Brown. That way when the principle Actors are on screen in garish costumes they stand out! I’ve long waited for Historically correct costumes to be seen on screen. The Actors can still be made to look the part. I just feel it’s lazy work that we see on Screen.


  3. Well, we did our part to make Vikings more historically correct in the form of the jewelry we supplied (and continue to supply) to the studio through our business Crafty Celts. We got to tour the costuming department, and while much of the costuming, especially the leatherwork, was stunning, it was also COMPLETELY non-historical. But we will continue to do our part to make at least one aspect of Vikings as historical as possible.

    Danny & Sherry Hansen


  4. This is something as a Viking reenactor, archaeologist and textile recreationist that I find burmusing also. I think more than anything it’s just ignorance and no one actually educating the film industry. This is something as a Viking Age archaeologist I am attempting to do. Check out my LinkedIn page or my page or facebook shop: Nidavellnir.

    Well put argument. And to be honest, I feel the same, your not alone 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  5. clgbutterfly

    Because most costume designers are not historians and given neither the time or resources to do it correctly, then if they even attempted this they have ditectors, producers, actors all making demands that change the accuracy. And then once they are done the mainstream audience freaks if the look is too far from what they expect and perceive as beauty. No matter how hard you try people impress modern notions on historical views.
    I actually watched this develop in the series the Pinkertons which did a pretty good job with most of the costuming and then 7-9 episodes in characters were wearing more makeup, their hair reflect more modern looks and Neckline on dresses became more inaccurate and in order to express a more feminine look.
    And don’t even get me started on the costume change between season 1 and season 2 of “way of the heart” it went from Anne of avonlea to 90210.


  6. Jens de Vries

    I think next to asking why and showing criticism (which I am not against) we as reenactors should definitely see it as a challenge to educate the crowds that come and see us. I’ve seen this discussion before and notice that a lot of people just make remarks about how stupid it is that this is trending etc etc but I think it’s a good opportunity for us to share our knowledge with people that are showing interest in the viking age and culture. Also one good point I have seen some one write down, if its a trend, it will blow over, and the really interested will stick and will be eager to learn more 🙂


  7. THANKS! I just don’t understand it. Why is it so hard or plain ignored, in shows like Vikings that claim to be “historical” – when the actual historical garb looks much more stunning than the fantasies they come up with? It all looks bleak and boring and impractical. I get annoyed watching Vikings, much as I love the acting and drama…By the Gods! 😉


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