Loincloth and Loin Skirt

The most basic garment of clothing for Egyptian working men was the loincloth or loin skirt. The climate in Egypt was very hot. Many workers simply worked naked. But the hieroglyphics, or picture drawings, found in Egyptian tombs indicate that many men working in agriculture, wood, metal, leather, and tailoring wore a loincloth or a loin skirt. The loincloth was a very simple garment and is seen beginning in the Old Kingdom period (c. 2700—c. 2000 b.c.e.). Most often it consisted of a linen belt wrapped around the waist with a triangular flap of material that hung down in front of the private parts. Sometimes the hanging part of the loincloth was longer and was pulled through the legs and tucked into the back of the belt, offering more protection. Some workers wore a loincloth made of a single piece of leather. Shaped like a triangle with hide strings stretching from either end of one edge, the piece was tied around the waist and the point of the triangle was pulled up between the legs and tied at the back.

Ancient Egypt

This wall painting from ancient Egypt shows how men wore loincloths in every aspect of life.

Reproduced by permission of © Historical Picture Archive/ CORBIS.

This wall painting from ancient Egypt shows how men wore loincloths in every aspect of life.

Reproduced by permission of © Historical Picture Archive/ CORBIS.

Unlike many Egyptian clothing styles, which stayed basically the same for three thousand years, the loincloth developed over time into the loin skirt. Hieroglyphs from the Middle Kingdom period of Egyptian history (c. 2000-c. 1500 b.c.e.) show male workers wearing a short skirt tied around the waist with a belt. The garment was similar to the schenti, or kilt, worn by the higher officials, called nobles. Although there is no direct evidence, the drawings from the period seem to indicate that these loin skirts may have been woven from grass or straw. These loin skirts were usually fairly short, reaching only to mid thigh, and were sometimes worn over a loincloth, the flap of which can be seen hanging down below the hem of the skirt. The loin skirt remained the clothing of choice for working men through the years of the New Kingdom (c. 1500-c. 750 b.c.e.).


Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

[See also Volume 1, Ancient Egypt: Schenti]

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