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Squire's dress and squire's garb:

Clothing has always served people as protection against harmful environmental influences such as cold or wet, and in their respective design also for interpersonal communication. It has therefore developed very differently according to the climatic, individual and fashionable needs. Shoes and headgear, such as helmets, are considered clothing, but purely decorative items are not.  

The oldest remains of fabric from miners' clothing are known from the salt mines of Hallstatt and Dürrnberg near Hallein from the period from 1,600 BC. Christ. More than 700 fragments of flax, hemp, but above all wool fabrics and also fur and leather clothing were discovered in the Bronze Age pits. Although the fragments of fabric found are too small to provide information about the cut and the way it was worn, they do provide other essential information about Bronze Age textile craftsmanship. So high-quality sewing techniques and weaving patterns are documented.


In addition to these revealing but fragmentary witnesses to mining clothing, a single piece has been preserved in its entirety. It is a cone-shaped leather or skin hat with strips of leather hanging from the crown. She was worn with the hair side inwards.


Textiles were not only used as clothing or makeshift binding material in Bronze Age mines, but also for wound care. A bandage for a finger made of linen strips with plant remains to stop bleeding was found on the Dürrnberg.  


Fritz Gruber gives a good overview of the everyday clothing of early modern miners in his "Mining History of the Rauris Valley".


In the 16th century, a squire wore a "Pfaid" (= "path", shirt), over it a skirt. This skirt originally reached to the knee like a smock, but later showed a clear tendency towards shorter and shorter versions. In the first third of the 16th century such open “mountain smocks” were at least sometimes still worn. It is not known whether underpants were used, but it can be assumed. Originally, a belt was worn under the skirt, to which the stockings were attached. Presumably, however, a strip of fabric was also attached to the belt, which covered the pubic area from below and was similar to a "bruoch" (= short trousers).


The shirt was mostly linen, sometimes with a black collar. If the collar was set off and sewn out particularly beautifully, one spoke of a "Golter". The skirt in the cheap, simple form usually referred to as "Joppn" could occasionally have a lambskin lining. There was a version with wide or narrow sleeves, but there was also a version without sleeves.


The trousers also underwent changes. Originally, the buttocks were covered by the so-called "bruoch" and for the legs there were two pieces of knitted stockings that were attached to the "bruoch" or, if they were not available, to a "trouser belt" (= trouser belt). As early as the early 16th century, the "bruoch" and leggings grew together into a single, undivided garment. Since the smock was probably quite short at that time, the idea of covering the male sex with a well-padded, capsule-shaped “braguette” (= codpiece) came up with the idea, as it had occasionally before. It is questionable whether the braguette belonged to the everyday clothing of the miners. For lansquenets, however, the "braguette" was part of the costume as a masculine attribute.


Another aspect is important, namely the transformation of the old "Bruoch" into a particularly wide, bulbous, baggy "Puffhose" that reached down to the knees. The miners depicted in the Schwazer Bergbuch of 1556, for example, wear puffy trousers. The colorfulness of the trousers, which is particularly accentuated by the striped pattern, is striking. By the middle of the 18th century at the latest, the old leggings - similar leg warmers - gradually shrank to normal knee socks and puffy trousers to knee breeches.

Interesting is the fact that the miners in the Rauris valley were allowed to wear trousers by decree for their loyalty to the Salzburg archbishop in the peasant wars of 1526, after the end of the turmoil of war. The rebellious farmers were still forbidden from doing this, they were not allowed to take off their old coats.

All in all, the colors were lost in the later centuries and the natural gray should have determined the work clothes, apart from the "ass leather", which was black at all times. It was an approximately triangular cut leather patch that was worn on the buttocks. This made sense, since a miner had to protect himself against the damp, especially against damp, often clay-covered tunnel walls, not only when walking through narrow loops that were often not much more than 30 - 40 cm wide, but of course also when sitting . Incidentally, the ass leather could also be worn as belly leather, this was done by the mountain blacksmiths, for whom the nature of their work meant protecting the sensitive front.


In a broader sense, of course, shoes also belonged to clothing. The old Bundschuhe only rarely appear in the estate inventories, but always "a cut pair of shoes", these initially without their own soles. If you want to look at it that way, these shoes were actually a kind of leather bag. It can be assumed that the "pit shoes" already had a sole, initially perhaps made of wood, later made of hard leather. Of course, the latter made them quite expensive.


A "berett" made of cloth or "rough" (= fur, fur) served as headgear. The beret was a cap-like headgear that was more likely to belong to holiday garb and was not commonly worn until the 18th century.


For bad weather, some afforded a dirty, light-grey “weather coat”. It didn't take long to clean the clothes. A contemporary report from Rauris around 1610 says that some people stink so much "that you have to flee the church because you faint."

In addition to everyday clothing, the miners' costume was very important for identifying with the miners' class.


For the entire Alpine region, the "white" (or "Maximilian") miner's costume is considered "historical" miner's clothing, the essential components of which are a light "mountain smock" reaching to the thigh, the hood either connected to it or at least to a neck and shoulder protector ("Gugl") and the Bergleder ("Arschleder") are.


When miners represent their status, contemporary pictorial evidence shows them uniformly in white mountain smocks, with a hood and mountain leather, but mostly also with "mallets and irons" as attributes.


It can be assumed, however, that only a very small percentage of those employed in mining bought this status clothing, most likely still members of the middle class among the miners: hat people, feudal workers and small trades. Uniform clothing at the expense of the mining operator is also unthinkable before the 18th century.


Their clothing at work was not that uniform, but representations of working miners show a lot of agreement in essential parts: the preference for light colors for better visibility in the dark of the workplace, the hood that protects the head and neck, and the butt leather as protection with the often mallet work to be performed while sitting.


However, the everyday and, above all, festive clothing of the miners, or the small number of those who could afford to dress, followed the changes in fashion as far as the applicable dress code allowed.


Anyone who counted among the mining operators, the trades, was also allowed to wear the clothing reserved for merchants, townspeople and patricians. They dressed in magnificent robes of silk and cloth, wore pristine white ruffs, embroidered doublets, waistcoats or velvet jackets and short skirts and coats lined with fur. A beret worn on the head was considered a sign of status. According to the imperial dress code, berets were not allowed to be worn by farmers, commoners and craftsmen.


The black miners' costume was introduced towards the end of the 18th century. It is attributed to the influence of the official clothing of the mining officials who were trained at the mining schools and academies and felt like "mining officers". The official attire, for its part, was based on models from Saxony from the beginning of the 18th century. The example of the Saxon "mining officers" with precisely prescribed uniforms for the individual ranks influenced Austrian mining, as photographic evidence shows, even before the first mining academy was founded in Schemnitz in 1771.


However, pressure from the authorities to ensure a festive and representative setting for visits and transits by members of the imperial family certainly had the greatest influence on the implementation of uniform dark festive clothing. The mountain festival held in 1864 at the Ludovika tunnel in honor of the visit of the queens of Prussia and Saxony can serve as an example. Contemporary engravings show the miners' detachments with black kalpaks and plumes, black mountain smocks and trousers, and ass leathers.


On April 20, 1850, after the events of the revolution in 1848, a regulation on mountain uniforms for mining state officials was issued for disciplining purposes. This regulation regulated the design of the mountain uniform down to the last detail as well as the general conditions of who had to wear it and when.


The development of the miners' deed was completed in 1871 with the somewhat relaxed uniform regulations for miners and people working in the mines, to which the miner's smock, which is still worn today, goes back.     

The black mountain smock, which is still common today, has 3 rows of brass buttons on which the mining sign "Schlägel und Eisen" is shown. Furthermore, shoulder straps with the mining symbol are attached to the mountain smock.

A white shirt with a black bow tie or tie, black trousers and a black shaft cap, a kind of beret, which also bears the mining symbols, are worn with the mountain smock.


Some symbolic components of the mountain smock are worth mentioning: The 29 buttons of the smock are dedicated to the 29 years of St. Attributed to Barbara, the patron saint of miners. The golden buttons are supposed to symbolize the sun and the black cloth the color of the night in which the underground work is to be carried out.


The miners' working clothes mostly consisted of discarded everyday clothes. Depictions from the Schwaz mining area show miners who, depending on their profession, wear worn and patched, colorfully assembled clothing. People often worked barefoot or with simple clogs. The Gugl was the only headgear.

Protective clothing as we know it today has only existed since the second half of the 20th century.


An essential part of modern mining clothing is the protective helmet. For thousands of years, helmets were worn primarily to protect against weapon damage. In the course of technological progress and the increasing number of special requirements, the first forerunners of modern protective helmets emerged in the middle of the 18th century. Originally made of leather or felt, these offered little protection.

Moss caps made of felt have been worn in the Harz mining industry since the 18th century. They protected the miner from small rock falls and bumping against the ridges during his work. Moss caps were made from a hard green felt , but there are also said to have been "crocheted" versions. They were cylindrical, conical or dome-shaped.


At the beginning of the 19th century, the first pit helmets were made of leather. They also offered only limited protection during underground work.

Only with the development of plastics in the middle of the 20th century could the wearing comfort, the service life and above all the protective effect of the helmets be significantly improved.


The color of the helmet also showed the profession or position of a miner. White helmets were reserved for supervisors such as foremen or overseers, blue helmets were worn by locksmiths, red helmets by electricians and yellow helmets by houseworkers.


Modern mining protective clothing consists of overalls with reflective protective strips, safety shoes with steel toecaps, protective gloves, a protective helmet with integrated earmuffs and lamp holder, protective goggles, dust mask and a CO2 filter self-rescuer.   

Sources used:

"Mining - everyday life and identity of the Dürrnberger - miners and Halleiner - saltworks workers", Salzburg contributions to folklore, Salzburg, 1998

Alois Fellner "Mining Dictionary", Vienna, 1999

Fritz Gruber "The Rauris Valley - Gold and Silver, Mining History", Rauris, 2004

Günther Biermann "Living conditions of the miners" in "Grubenhunt und Ofensau", Klagenfurt, 1995

German Mining Museum "Uphill - Downhill, 10  000 years of mining in the Eastern Alps”, Bochum 2015

Anton Kern "Salt - Reich 7000 Years Hallstatt", NHM Vienna, Vienna, 2008

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