There are movies and series in which the characters wear very accurately made costumes that correspond with that era’s fashion. We can literally study the clothing of certain historical period by our favorite TV shows. One of such series is the Game of Thrones. Let’s examine the costumes of one of the show's central figures, King of the North Jon Snow. We’ll see if his outfits are identical to the real-life Medieval costumes. At the same time, we can enjoy the beauty of his stylish masculine garments.
While Robb Stark looks like Ned Stark in waiting, a youthful Jon Snow still looks like an echo of the stark family patriarch back in the season 1 debut. His early looks give no hint of his destiny. It will take several seasons, before Jon Snow feels he is worthy of stepping into his father's boots.
Michele Clapton, British costume designer, says of the rising protagonist origins, “Jon Snow's look initially came from Winterfell, but because he's the bastard, his clothes aren't quite of the same quality as his brothers and sisters”.
In this scene from “Winter Is Coming”, the Stark boys wear leather and padded skirts, jerkins, and doublets. This, mostly British, medieval silhouette carries Jon through almost six seasons of Game of Thrones, until he switches to Stark armor.
Here's a close-up of Jon's doublet. It's made from cloth, with a center front seam, and has detachable sleeves and a short skirt. And while you can't see it, it's laced up in the back. The neck and shoulder wings are bound with bias in a slightly darker color. And there's lots of breakdown that's been done on the garment, concentrating along the seams.
To give you an idea of the time frame we're looking at here, this is an example of a cloth doublet from the Renaissance era from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This wool English doublet was made between 1625-1635 and it's trimmed with silk and it's lined with linen.
This is a different doublet here, the one Jon is wearing in “The Kingsroad”, then the one that we saw in Episode 1. This one's made of tanned and oiled leather – you can tell because it has a bit of a luster. And he'll wear this piece of clothing on and off for years to come. He always wears a gray linen shirt underneath and a cravat at his neck. The sleeves are attached to the body of the doublet with laces that are hidden by these shoulder wings. The wings also might help protect against the rain.
Jon is following in the footsteps of his uncle Benjen, someone that he admires immensely. Michele Clapton says that while many of the Night’s Watch volunteers come directly from prison, “Jon Snow is planning, is really excited about it… because he has an understanding of where he's going”.
Here's Jon in Episode 8 Lord Snow. Michele Clapton says of the Night’s Watch costumes, “We also decided we’d keep the recruits in their own clothing, aside from crude standard-issue sparring armor. They don't don their black garb until they've passed muster and taken their Night's Watch vows”.
Jon is wearing a different skirt here. These ones are quilted with a diamond pattern. In British medieval times, the skirt would be part of a gambeson, which is a quilted jacket worn as additional protection under armor. Clapton's team went with a more Japanese-style skirt that samurai would wear under their armor.
Michele Clapton says, “Many of the new recruits are plucked from prisons, so they don't have a cape or cloak. So within the recruits, there's a mixture of colors and fabrics, depending on where they came from”.
In this shot, you can see metal grommets and lacing of the sleeves, attached to the jacket. Of course, metal grommets are a modern invention, but as Michele Clapton has stated, there are no limits when designing fantasy.
This sparring armor of the Night’s Watch is also very Japanese in design. It looks a bit like the armor of the Knight King and his fellow White Walkers.
Here is Jon with Samwell and his other brothers in the episode “You Win Or You Die”.
Michele Clapton says, “The Night’s Watch, when we join it is in decline and has been for some time. Everything that they wear there, could be mostly padding, fur not really metal armor because you can't with it in cold; it's impractical but it's not a uniform because they're not funded enough to do that anymore, but as long as it's black it's enough for them to wear…”. Clapton adds, “They sort of live, eat, sleep in the same costume so it just has to almost smell…”
And Jon's cravat is the green color, taken from the Stark family sigil.
Seen here in the episode “The Pointy End”, Jon's cloak is made from a twill type fabric with a raised stripe. It's gathered at the neckline with narrow cartridge pleats and it's topped with a wolf pelt. And the cloak is faced with wool. So this is the same cloak that Jon wears for four seasons. The costume team would have created multiples throughout varying degrees of distress each season. As Michele Clapton's mentioned before, “Jon's pelt at this point is considerably smaller than that of Ned and Robb Stark”.
And the cross leather straps are attached to the cloak’s neckline. We can't tell exactly how they're attached, but black metal rivets might be used.
In the episode “Baelor”, Jon wears a black leather doublet with a stand-up collar and front closure that's fastened with laces through metal grommets; and it also has detachable sleeves.
Here's Jon in the Season 2 premiere “The North Remembers”. Kit Harington said in an interview, “My costumes, they’re brilliantly made and brilliantly designed and especially the cloaks make you feel very weighty and powerful”. And he's ditched the wolf pelt and topped his cloak with this black long curly wool collar.
Harrington says, “My costumes don't really change that much because essentially the Night’s Watch wear what they arrive in but anything that they arrive in is dyed black…”
In Episode 5 “The Ghost of Harrenhal”, Jon changes up his costume. This is the same wooly pelt collar but it's worn upside down. Michele Clapton has stated in interviews that the wildlings wear clothing with the fur upside down. Jon's whole costume is a bit bonkers really, because while he has a warm fur to cover his shoulders and back, he has very little in the way of warm clothes, except for his hood that's worn over a leather jerkin like a yoke and these attached wooly sleeves, which still leave a huge gap under his arms. If you've ever spent any time in sub-zero weather, you will know how crazy this costume is, because the majority of the heat comes out of your head and extremities. And even his gloves are just his standard leather gloves.
Now before we get on the costume designers for the lack of headwear on the actors, it's really taken out of their hands by the showrunners and producers. So Michele Clapton explains in a Harper's Bazaar interview, “I get very annoyed when people can't cover their heads when they're going North of the Wall. I'm going, ‘The first thing you would do is cover your heads!’ I don't understand why”.
Michele Clapton says, “Sure, you see the characters, whatever. I'm always trying to come up with different solutions and different hats and different ways of covering but it's difficult. I like things to make sense and when I can't actually make it make sense, I find that really hard. Look at all that fur on their bodies and nothing on their heads. That's always a big discussion, which I usually lose. Which is fine”.
Michele Clapton tells Fashionista, “I wish they did wear more hats but unfortunately in filming every time I put a hat on them they say, ‘But we can't see who the actor is!’”
Just to show you how cold it actually is, here's a shot of actors Kit Harington and James Cosmo with earmuffs and blankets between takes.
Here's a shot of Jon wearing boot covers and leg wraps over his own leather boots.
When we meet up with Jon again in the Season 3 opener “Valar Dohaeris”, he's still in the same costume. This leather jerkin consists of black leather vest that he's wearing over his leather doublet. He wears this piece for several seasons.
By the way, such leather jerkins were worn over doublets but not as armor, they were worn under armour. Most weapons can slice through leather in the same way that a blade can slice through meat. The leathers that we see in shows are most often tanned leather and will do little good unless it's backed with metal plates. So the only protective leathers are “lamellar”, which are hardened leather plates, “buff coats”, which are coats that are made from rawhide and it's much thicker than your standard leather, or “cuir bouillis”, also known as “boiled leather”. So, to reiterate, Jon's costume is not suitable for either the cold or for fighting, but you might argue that he looks cool.
In the episode “The Rains of Castamere”, Jon transitions into this low pile fur. Again, it has a hood, which he never wears.
Back at Castle Black in the episode “Breaker of Chains”, Jon returns to his original costume, although looking a little bit worse for wear. The woolly collar is back to its position, and the breakdown team have added some wear and tear to his jerkin and cloak.
Here's Jon in the Season 4 episode the “Oathbreaker”. Without the cloak, we get a better look at Jon's black leather jerkin. It opens in the front and then it's fastened at the side with buckles and tied at near the top with leather laces.
Here's a promotional shot of Kit Harington in his costume. You can see his doublet underneath the jerkin.
Here is another shot of Jon. You can see all of the breakdown on his costume because there are no filters. The splatter marks on the hem of his cape looked like they're done with either bleach or color remover. And also, this is one of the few looks at his cape that shows that it's lined.
In Episode 10 “The children”, the breakdown of his costume is more obvious, especially on the hem of his cloak.
Here is Jon in the Season 5 premiere “The Wars to Come” and “Kill the Boy”. When we zoom in, we can just make up the tight cartridge pleating on his cloak, normally hidden by his collar.
One of the cutest aspects of Jon is how well his own hair flows into his collar like it's one and the same. And when his hair gets wet and spotted with snow, so does his collar.
In the Season 8 episode “Hardhome”, you might notice that Jon's collar is losing the black. Now, this might be just the lighting or such, but, maybe, he has already begun to transition away from the Night’s Watch, even before he's assassinated.
Here's his costume from a display. This one had the ultimate breakdown from when he was in the North and there are, probably, several versions of this costume at varying degrees of distress.
In the first two episodes of Season 6, Jon is mostly naked so we won't bother with that. But in the episode “Oathbreaker”, when Jon returns to the land of the living, he's back to wearing his older jerkin from Season 1. Obviously, the other one would have been sliced up and soaked in blood, so luckily for him, the cape and leather skirts made it through.
It's here, in Episode 4 “Book of the Stranger” that Jon pivots and ditches the black, no longer being the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He now dons Stark Armor, embracing his father Ned's look. The coat of plaits he's wearing is a tabard made of two layers of leather with metal plate, sandwiched in-between and riveted into position. The brown mock turtleneck underneath appears to be laced in the back, with the quilted sleeves that are seemed to the plain shirt. The bottom portion of the shirt appears to be the same color as the sleeves. And he's also wearing a Man Bun Ponytail of sorts.
Here's a close-up of his collar and the shirt sleeve.
Jon also has a different belt. This one is similar to Ned's and it's decorated with floral mounts, just like Ned's.
You might remember that in Episode 5 “The Door”, Sansa gives Jon a new cloak that she's made for him, and you can see that the leather straps are embossed with the dire wolf sigil.
Here's Jon wearing the cloak in the episode “Battle of the Bastards”. The model wolf pelt is rather large – it's more in keeping with Ned Stark's own pelt. And the cloak itself is much more grand. It's made from a burned-out velvet or chenille.
Here's a close-up of the fabric so you can see the velvet.
Here is Jon Snow from an HBO promo in his full Season 7 costume.
In the Season 7 premiere “Dragonstone”, Jon's King-of-the-North look consists of an entirely new costume, including a new cloak and armor. His tabard armor is black – to reflect the changing mood, and as Michelle Clapton has described, it's a shutting down of color.
Clapton said in an interview, “That's a big heavy cape and yes, it is him as Ned, but he's actually not Ned”. She adds, “It was quite interesting to see him transition to another look because it took on another part of his journey. Suddenly people understood him in that role… The way that he can appeal to not just the Northerners, but the way he's brought that whole group with the Wildlings and everyone together, I thought that was really important”.
In addition to the new tabard, Jon is also wearing a new cape. To show the changing climate, however, the cape is trimmed with wolf’s fur.
Here's a great head-to-toe shot of Jon. You can see that the cape is unlined, with only about 4-6 inches of fur trim along the front of the cape.
The cape fabric looks like a pewter gray color and not true black – to mirror Daenerys’ dress, as seen in the episode “Eastwatch”.
As he walks, you can see the brown leather skirts and sleeves with the checkerboard quilting. This is an echo, of course, of Ned's costume from the premiere episode of Game of Thrones.
Here are some details of his costume: the black belt with the basketweave and silver mounts. It's really Jon's signature belt – he's worn it almost entirely throughout this series, including the “Battle of the Bastards”.
The cloak fabric is really beautiful, it's kind of a nubby wool or boucle fabric, with this sort of abstract checkered pattern. This checkered pattern is used repeatedly by Ned, Jon, and Arya Stark.
For the episode “The Queen's Justice”, Michelle Clapton's said in an interview of this decision of losing the cape, “We had a lot of discussions about does the cape give him presence or is it better to not have that presence? What are we trying to say? There are times when we removed it because we wanted him to be more vulnerable”. She adds, “Especially I think, when he saw Danny, and he went to see her for the first time in her chamber. We decided to remove it…”
While wanted to appear vulnerable for Danny at “Dragonstone”, he also wanted to strike a formidable figure at the summit in the dragon pits in the episode “The Dragon and the Wolf”. Clapton said, “… but then when he went to see Cersei, we put it [the cloak] on”.
Jon's metal two-section gorget, which is this collar, is edged in leather and embellished with two dire wolves facing each other. He also wears a soft green cravat once again.
Jon's not wearing the metal gorget in the episode “Eastwatch”, so we can see the leather collar worn underneath. It's made from the same leather as his tabard. It's tucked into his armor and then fastened with a buckle at his throat.
In the episode “Beyond the Wall” and of all the 7 characters, Jon looks the most appropriately dressed for the excursion. He's learned a thing or two from the Free Folk friends, including torment.
Michelle Clapton tells Uproxx, “He really embraces this Northern, over-the-Wall style, the Wildling style, and the reason he embraces it is because it's practical. Kit [Harington] was delighted that he didn't have the big heavy cape. This was agile and he could fight and move and I think it was a really interesting process just to take him out into this new look”.
If you look closely, you'll see that Jon's outfit is made up of wide strips of fur that have been stitched together to create this patchwork effect. The skins might be seal or faux seal.
You can see the similarities between the King of the North, Jon Snow, and the former king-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder.
Jon's removed the wolf pelt from his cloak and added it to his Wildling attire. Although for some reason, the wardrobe broke down the leather straps. And under his pelt, he wears another layer of sheep-like skin.
For additional warmth, it also appears that Jon's costume is lined with fox’s fur. You can see that Jon's pants are stitched together in the same way as Jorah’s coat, with widely spaced stitches. And he also has boots of the same style as Beric and the other boys.
Here's a good shot of his sleeves made from various colors of the skin.
That’s it. For now, these are the most interesting garments worn by Jon Snow in the Game of Thrones series.