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Throughout the Middle Ages, the common clothing of Gaels (also known as Scoti) consisted of a léine (a knee-length shirt, sometimes dyed with saffron), a brat (a cloak or mantle that may be decorated with tartan or other designs), a belt or brooch, and sometimes trews (a type of tight trousers). For the earlier part of the period, Gaelic dress was therefore a local variant of the general styles of Early medieval European dress.

Additionally, various types of coats (such as the padded ionar), robes, boots and shoes were worn, although many people went barefoot until the 18th century or later. There is also evidence of the belted plaid (the precursor to the modern kilt) being worn by the 1500s. Among the higher classes there was considerable adoption of the general types of dress worn in the rest of Scotland and Europe.

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Hair

In Gaelic society, both men and women grew their hair long and very often braided it. Other hairstyles that may have been popular include the mohawk (as worn by the Irish bog body known as Clonycavan man) and the glib (short all over except for a thick lock of hair towards the front of the head). Gaelic males above a certain age were expected to let their facial hair grow into a beard. It was often seen as dishonourable for a Gaelic layman to have no facial hair. Celtic Christianity had a distinctive form of tonsure until about the 12th century, involving shaving the centre of the head rather than the crown, although the exact style is still much debated.

Social station

Trews or trousers were not often worn by the middle nor upper classes, being considered more appropriate for the poorer classes. As well, they were often worn by soldiers in warfare, especially cavalry, since trews enabled them to better straddle a horse. Additionally, colours on one cloak were limited to type and number by one's station in society; the more colors, the higher one's station. As elsewhere in Europe, the aristocracy wore trimmed and embroidered robes, and most middle class and higher, especially the men, also wore a variety of both simple and complex jewelry, featuring various precious and semi-precious stones; in the earlier period these included brooches that were significant masterpieces of Insular art.

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