It’s a Pirates Life for Me

…and a bottle of rum, of course!

My wee editorial on rum a few weeks ago gave me an idea to do some day-in-the-life articles about various characters and archetypes that you might encounter at the Ren Faire.  Let’s start with the pirates.

Life on board ship

The pirates you see at the Ren faire are usually dressed in their land-lubber best.  Shoes, hats, shirts, swords… the whole works.  On ship, pirates wore as little as possible.  They were working, whether that meant just running the ship or plundering and pillaging.  Normal dress on ship for a typical pirate would have been pants or slops, a belt of some description and… nope… that is about it.  pants and a belt.  They worked in the sun all the time and skin cancer was a thing of the future for them (most not living long enough to have to worry about those long term conditions anyway).  They climbed the rigging and worked on deck so wearing shoes and boots would have made for dangerous climbing.  Shirts, likewise would have gotten in the way so they did away with the shirts as well.  Hats would have been nice but they would have come off when the wind kicked up and the sails were blown full, catching all the wind that they could.

After the pirates had been at sea for many weeks they would come to the nearest port town:  Tortuga, Boston, Ocracoke, etc.  As the pirates went to land they would divide up the plunder they had taken in while they were sailing and attacking ships, sacking towns or trading with other pirates – yes they did that too.  A lot of this plunder was in the form of clothes.  Pirates wore the few clothes they had until they wore out or the found something better.  As the loot was being divided up, they would take clothes from the sea-chests they had confiscated.  This is why one of the traditional views of pirates has been the grizzled sailor in rather foppish clothes and especially foppish clothes that were relatively mismatched. Pirates loved the garish.  They loved the idea of being seen and heard and the louder and more interesting the clothes the better.

The pirate captain in the big hat and the long frock coat was the pirate captain on land, about town, boozing and looking for strumpets.  The pirate in the white shirt, with a brace of pistols and a shining cutlass at his side got ready to go to town before they went ashore.  They shined their boots, combed their hair and put on their plundered best.  With cuffed boots digging into the sand, they wore their stolen best and flaunted their ill-gotten gains as they wore their booty up and down the harbor streets.