In my writing of the American Indian way of life, I’m often struck by the fact that the men of all tribes of American Indians (save those in the far-far north) wore breechcloths. Really… Now, I don’t know about you, but I find the breechcloth quite sexy, so I thought I’d talk about just what the heck they were…or are.
A breechcloth generally looked like this. They were a style of clothing worn by all American Indian men (and sometimes very young girls until they were of an age to wear dresses). The breechcloth didn’t just hang down in front and in back like some people might like to believe — they hung over the belt then dipped down on the other side of the belt, and up again in back and again hung over the belt in back, so that if a flap were pulled up, a man would look as though he were wearing underwear.
Off to the right here is another drawing of a man wearing a breechcloth, but this time it’s being worn with leggings — leggings were a sort of “pant” which were usually made from some soft, yet durable material, like buckskin. Often the seam that sewed the legs of the pant together were decorated with a fine line of fring or beadwork. But the breechcloth was a garment that was worn primarily and almost continually. Often in summer the breechcloth was worn without leggings, which would look something like this picture off to the left.
I guess it might be easy to understand why the Europeans who first came here and met the Indians might have thought they wore too little — and vice versa — to the Indian the sun was a source of food (which it actually is — vitamin D3) and so to cover the body while in the sun seemed mighty foolish to the Native American. It’s perhaps stating the obvious that many a feminine eye (when no one was looking of course) might have been studying that breechcloth.
The picture off to the right here is one I particularly like — it is of a Lakota chief, Big Eagle. I have this picture in my files, but I must admit that the picture that I have is a little more stunning than this one is. But you can clearly see the breechcloth. Now to the Amerian Indian woman looking at the men — the wearing of a breechcloth — even if only worn alone — was as common a sight to see as we might think of looking at a man in jeans. Of course there are men wearing jeans…and then there are men wearing…JEANS. Probably the same would have gone back then.
Here to the left is another picture of a breechcloth. Briefly, for those interested, to make the breechcloth wasn’t too difficult. The breechcloth was made from a long piece of skin or cloth. It was about 10 or more inches wide and could be as long as about 5 feet. The clothing usually fell, depending on the style of the tribe, to about a hands width above the knees. The material, if a skin, was softly tanned, and it became the standard piece of clothing that a man wore almost always. If leggings were worn, as in the picture here, they were usually made from single skins, were usually form fitting and had a seam that ran along the seam of the leg of the animal used. They were cut so that the hip portion was higher and slanting toward the crotch for comfort and for a good fit. The upper part of the legging was tied to the belt and oftentimes another garter was used to hold the leggings to the front, so that it didn’t slip.
And here are some of my favorite pictures of the breechcloths on men. This picture to the right is from the movie, Dances With Wolves. I’ve always liked this picture — to me it says alot — including the study of these men, watching of the buffalo.
I’m not certain what movie this picture was from — but I do like it alot. Although this picture is of Native American actors of today, it has all the flavor of the past. It is, indeed, one of my favorites.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather intriguing discussion (picture-wise) of breechcloths. So tell me, if it were you and you were seeing a man wearing a breechcloth for the first time, do you think you would have stared? Now be honest.
Once when I went to a pow-wow long, long ago, there was a man who was dressed in breechcloth and little more. I must admit that it was hard not to watch him — and, indeed, he had quite a few ladies following him at that pow-wow. A friend of mine, Michael Badnarik, tells a story of being at an art show and a fellow showed up in breechcloth and leggings. Michael remarked that he’d never seen so many women stare at a man. Is there any wonder why?
But to the American Indian it was nothing more than the standard way in which a man dressed, especially considering that the sun was considered in the same light as food. What do you think your reaction would have been…if any?
So come on in and let’s chat.
Also, stay tuned. On December 11th, LAKOTA SURRENDER, my first novel, will be being released from Samhain publishing in eb0ok format. It will be the first time the book is back in print in many, many years. I’ll keep you informed of the progress…