Pirate Costume Guide
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Essential Pirate Items

Best Pirate Costume Guide

As early as the 14th century, sailors who became known as pirates raided trade routes throughout the Meditteranean Sea. These often predictable routes enabled bandits and robbers to attack and pillage ships filled with goods and treasure. But, it was much later in the Caribbean during the classic era of piracy that we get the familiar image of no good Swashbucklers. As the colonial empire expanded into the west, the Buccaneers’ influence and image rose in prominence as they took advantage of this expansion to acquire even more booty. Piracy flourished during these years which is why the stereotypical pirate is often seen dressed in colonial fashion.

Ahoy, Matey! No matter what the occasion may be to dress or act like a pirate, either at a costume party or annual Halloween festivities, outfitting yourself in clothing like a traditional pirate will be more fun than walking the plank. Along with dressing up like a pirate, it is absolutely essential to have the scallywag swagger and speech down to act just like a pirate as well. No matter the event, you should walk around with confidence ready to sail the high seas wearing a tough scowl with a bottle of grog in hand.

The way a pirate dressed during the colonial era typically reflected their position and level of wealth achieved looting or overthrowing ships. Whether you decide to invest in a high-quality all-in-one costume or just a few basic pirate accessories to compliment your DIY pirate outfit, this complete, step-by-step pirate costume and cosplay guide is sure to be the best source for everything you need to look like a pirate. The more elaborate your look, the more attention you are sure to receive from all your fellow mateys.

Tips for Pirate Costume and Cosplay

Even if your pirate clothing is on point, you will need a few extra touches to complete the look. Remember that pirates often spent most of their time on the deck of a ship constantly exposed to the hot Carribean sun. So, fellow mateys had a familiar sun-kissed glow. Forget the UV exposure by simply spraying on bronzer or adding foundation a few shades darker than your natural skin tone. Smoky eyes will enhance your pirate vibe regardless of your gender, so apply dark eyeliner with a smudge to your eyes. Authentic pirate hair has a long and wavy look as if it was dried in the sun. So, apply some sea-salt spray if your hair is long or even wear a longer wig for a more genuine look. A few other pirate costume tips:

  • Add a waistcoat. By wearing a waistcoat, others will assume that you are the captain of yer ship!
  • Go for an oversized shirt. A pirate’s shirt should be loose and baggy, so pick one a few sizes larger than you typically would wear.
  • Wear black pants. A pair of loose black trousers are ideal, but really any pair of black pants will do. Just as long as they aren’t denim.
  • Layer a vest. Choose a red, navy, or black vest to wear over your oversized pirate shirt.
  • Get the right boots. Pick a pair of boots that are tall and slip-on (preferably with a large buckle), rather than a pair with laces.

Wardrobe Warning ⚠️

No need to go handless with a hook as a pirate. Though the infamous Captain Hook is often regarded as the most well-known pirate. However, his popular “hook” is an exception to the rule, not really a must-have to look the part of a pirate.

Pirate

FAQs

If you are struggling to find the perfect pirate accessories to compliment your costume, take a look at the top questions to get helpful answers and tips for dressing up just like a pirate. See how you can get the best pirate cosplay for any costume event.

Pirates often wore whatever clothing they could find or commandeer. The stereotypical pirate will often be found wearing a white poet shirt, or poet blouse, which is a loose-fitting blouse accented with frills on the front. Breeches were also worn that are tighter fitting but fall at or below the knew. Over that was doublet or coat which was often an expensive item of pirate clothing. A sash or belt would accent the clothes for practical reasons. The sash to keep cool and the belt to hold necessary weaponry.

Some say that pirates were given earrings to commemorate a certain voyage like crossing the equator or navigating around Cape Horn. Others have said that the pressure on the earlobe was a common remedy for seasickness and balance. Still, others have dismissed both for a more practical reason, the earring was worth enough to pay for a funeral. So, if a pirate would wash ashore, the cost of a pirate burial could was the approximate value of the gold or silver earring.

Some say that pirates wore a bandana or scarf wrapped around their head to keep sweat out of their eyes while in the hot sun. Other’s say this is a myth as sailors and pirates wore bandanas around their necks. What is certain is that pirates typically wore a tricorn while at sea. This three-sided hat was extremely popular during the 18th century colonial period and was worn by the social elite, commoners, and the military alike.

An eye patch, most likely, was not used by pirates to cover a missing or injured eye. Pirates used the eye patch to help them easily adjust to the daylight and dark—specifically, above decks and below them. As they would often go between throughout the course of a day. By covering one eye the pirate could easily adjust to light or darkness instead of waiting up to 20 minutes for the eyes to adjust naturally.

Novelist J.M. Barrie is responsible for the popular hook-handed pirate persona when he wrote about Captain James Hook in the 1904 play Peter Pan that was later adapted into the 1953 Disney animated film. James Hook, once a boatswain to the historical Captain Blackbeard, lost his hand while dueling Peter Pan. Some say that J.M. Barrie may have based Hook’s character on Captain Christopher Newport, a famous English seaman during the Jamestown settlement who lost his hand while at sea.

The most famous pirate pet is Captain Flint the parrot often found perched on Long John Silver’s shoulder in the famous pirate story, Treasure Island. Aside from that, there is really no record of pirates having pet parrots. However, during the colonial trade, parrots were often exotic trade animals found as cargo on board. Pirates may have stolen parrots along with other valuable cargo for their booty. It’s likely, these intelligent animals may have entertained the crew during long voyages at sea.

Don’t have others calling you out as a scallywag by looking like a pirate, but not talking like one. Any old salt would know that to talk like a Buccaneer, ye must know the right lingo and also speak with a familiar Irish or Scottish accent paired with a bit of raspiness. Talkin' like a pirate is more than sprinkling in an "Aaaarrrrrrr" whenever ye feel like it. You’ll also need to learn some key pirate phrases like “Ahoy”, “Booty,” “Grog,” “Shiver me timbers,” “Matey,” “Scurvy,” “Lass,” and “Yo ho ho!” to really make it sound like you’re a real pirate. And if yer not, to the plank with ye!

Pirates carried weapons that were lightweight, the majority of which were bounty from a previous raid. The most portable of all weapons, a knife, was carried by nearly every pirate to be used during melee combat. But the most famous sword, or weapon for that matter, on the seas during the golden era of piracy was the Cutlass. Resembling a short sword, the Cutlass is remembered in pirate lore as a long single blade with a slight curve at the end. Both the length and weight made it ideal for fighting in a confined area of a ship. Firearms were also used in an increasing capacity during the colonial periods with flintlock pistols being the most common mobile gun and the musket used to pick off opponents from long range.

Top Costumes 🔝

If you don’t have the time to track down all of the necessary pirate clothing and accessories, get an all-in-one pirate costumes to look like a swashbuckling buccaneer. These are the top pirate costumes at a good, better, and best prices:

Pirate Costume Essentials 🔑

These essential swashbuckler accessories will enhance a typical pirate costume with just the right gear for you to achieve the best pirate cosplay as possible. Each listed pirate specific accessory gives an explanation of why it is critical to a Buccaneer’s wardrobe and every pirate costume.

  • Gold Earrings – a sign of wealth and considered by some to be a remedy to ease seasickness
  • Pirate Sash – added under a belt to absorb sweat and keep cool or hold a weapon
  • Pirate Braids – beards and long hair were often braided by pirates due to the hot Caribbean weather
  • Pirate Boots – boot covers or buckle up boots that are thigh high
  • Pirate Belt – wide belts were worn diagonally over the shoulder to carry weapons
  • Pirate Hat – a tricorne hat was extremely popular not just by pirates, but by everyone during the 18th century
  • Pirate Scarf – a flamboyant accent typically wrapped over the head or around the neck
  • Pirate Sword – a cutlass sword was the common naval weapon (and in turn Pirate weapon) in the 17th century
Pirate

All About Pirates

What’s known as the “Golden Age of Piracy” lasted from only about 1700 to 1725. Conditions were ideal due to this time of colonialization, but more importantly the most well-known pirates were active during this time period. Legendary pirates such as“Calico Jack” Rackham, Blackbeard, or “Black Bart” Roberts. Both men and women were turning to piracy in droves as a way to make a living trading in stolen gold, silver, alcohol, sugar and everything else. Pirates were overtaking ships to steal their precious cargo.

Modern day, pirates are still one of the top Halloween costumes year after year due to the tremendous success of the role Johnny Depp played in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But, even before the success of Jerry Bruckheimer’s popular pirate films, kids and adults alike were dressing up in rugged colonial-era outfits to look like ruthless sea bandits in search of buried treasure. Pirating was a very serious enterprise, it wasn’t as easy an easy life of drinking rum as the movies portray. On the contrary, pirates often adhered to strict rules and regulations according to their ranking on the ship. It was often a tough life since many pirates did not live a very long life as many were killed or critically injured during seizes.

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