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Grand Gallimaufry
Grand Gallimaufry

Anatomy of 14th Century Bubonic Plague Hazmat Suits

Grand Gallimaufry
Grand Gallimaufry

The Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, killed at least 75 million people on three continents. Described as the most lethal epidemic in history, the plague began in China in the 1330s and made its way through Europe from 1346 to 1353. In those times, physicians didn't know what was causing the disease to spread, but they did know it was highly contagious. To provide medical care and to protect themselves, doctors of the time invented the medieval version of a hazmat suit.

Each piece of the suit—the hat, the bird-like mask, the red glass eyes, the black overcoat, the leather breeches, and the wooden cane—is thought to have had an important function to either keep the disease away or scare it away. What doctors didn't know was that they were probably doing more harm than good—spreading the plague even more by exposing more people to their plague-covered articles of clothing.

The Hat

In the 14th Century, doctors would have been easily identifiable by their wide-brimmed black hats worn close to the head. Plague Doctors and their hats are similar to today's chefs and soldiers. It's thought that the wide-brimmed hat was used to partially shield doctors from bacteria.

The Bird-like Mask

Courtesy of Pixipui

What was with the bird's beak? Well, a common belief at the time was that the plague was being spread by birds. (We now know that rats and fleas were responsible for spreading the Black Death.) The doctors may have thought that dressing up in a bird-like gas mask, the plague would be transferred from the patient to the garment. This beak piece was also filled with vinegar, sweet oils, and other strong-smelling chemicals to mask the stench of death and unburied bodies.

The Red Glass Eyes

This one's pretty simple. Doctors thought that red eyepieces would make them insusceptible to evil (aka the deadly disease).

The Black Overcoat

To minimize skin exposure, doctors tucked the neckline of their long overcoat behind the mask. The coat extended down to the feet and was often completely coated with suet (a hard, white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle and sheep, usually used in puddings and pastries) or wax. Doctors thought the suet could draw the plague away from the flesh of the infected or the wax could repel it. It's also thought that the wax could have just been used to keep bodily fluids from clinging to the coat.

The Leather Breeches

Similar to waders worn by fishermen, breeches covered each leg separately and were worn beneath the overcoat to protect the legs and groin from infection. Because the infection tended to attack the lymph nodes first, doctors paid close attention to cover and protect their armits, neck and groin. 

The Wooden Cane

Doctors used the cane to direct family members on how and where to move infected patients and to examine them without direct contact.

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TBT
The Unkindest Cut: A Short History of the Mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Jerry Seinfeld wore it on primetime television for nine years. Brad Pitt thinks his career got off the ground because he wore one to his Thelma & Louise audition. Peter Dinklage’s high school photo went viral as a direct result of the bold choice.

For all of these men and millions of others, the mullet has had profound and lasting effects on their lives. Famously described as being “business in the front, party in the back” and sometimes referred to as a “squirrel pelt” or the “ape drape,” the short-front, long-backed hairstyle might be the most controversial cut in the history of grooming. What started it? And can anything kill it?

A man shows off his mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Although it doesn’t have quite the same archaeological provenance as hieroglyphs or dinosaur bones, mullet historians believe there’s ample evidence to suggest that the hairstyle has been with mankind for centuries. Neanderthals may have favored it to keep hair out of their eyes and protect their necks from wind and rain. Greek statues dating back to the 6th century BCE sport the cut. Ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and Syria rocked it.

Most of these populations embraced the cut for practical purposes: protection from the elements and visibility. But the direct lineage of the mullet to the modern day might be traceable from Native Americans, who often wore their hair short in front and kept it long in the back as a sign of their spiritual strength. The style was eventually appropriated by Western culture and made its way to settlements; colonial wigs, particularly George Washington’s, look a little mullet-esque.

The mullet remained dormant for much of the 20th century. Conformity led to sharp, practical cuts for men and traditional styles for women. That began to change in the 1960s, when counterculture movements expressed their anti-establishment leanings in their mode of dress. Long hair on guys became commonplace. In the 1970s, entertainers looking to appear even more audacious pushed their stage presence to extremes. For David Bowie, that meant a distinctive hairstyle that was cropped over the eyes and ears and left hanging in the back.

 David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London on July 3, 1973
Express/Express/Getty Images

Bowie’s popularity drew fresh attention to the mullet, although it didn’t yet have a name. The arrival of MTV led to even more exposure, which soon migrated to other mediums. Richard Marx’s blow-dried variant led to George Clooney’s The Facts of Life sculpt. Patrick Swayze’s ‘do in 1989’s Road House deserved equal screen billing. Mel Gibson raced through three Lethal Weapon movies with a well-insulated neck. John Stamos consoled his widowed brother-in-law on Full House with an epic mullet. Richard Dean Anderson diffused bombs on MacGyver for years with the “Arkansas waterfall.” Some fads last months. The mullet seemed to be hanging on for the long term.

But public derision was brewing. The style began to be appropriated by a demographic fond of trucker hats and sandals. The death blow came when the Beastie Boys mocked the cut on their 1994 track “Mullet Head,” a song the Oxford English Dictionary credits with naming the fad. (A “mullet head” had long been an insult used to label someone lacking in common sense: Mark Twain used it in 1884’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.) Suddenly, mullet-wearers were objects of ridicule and scorn, their locks outdated. For 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4, Gibson lost his trademark cut. It was the end of an era.

A man shows off his mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Like most things in fashion, that would not be the end of the mullet. The cut has made periodic resurgences over the years, with people adopting ironic takeoffs or making legitimate attempts to return the coonskin cap-like look to its former glory. In Moscow, young men suddenly began sporting the look in 2005, which became ground zero for a follicular virus. Some less flexible countries even became proactively anti-mullet: Iran banned it, among other Western styles, in 2010.

Hairstylists generally avoid the waves of attention the mullet can sometimes provoke. “It's for people who are slightly confused, who believe they like long hair but don't want the image that they associate with long hair," celebrity hairstylist Jose Eber told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. He declared it “nonsense.”

For others, the appeal is enduring. Kurri Kurri, a small mining town in Australia, just hosted its first “mullet festival,” a celebration of all things badly shorn. “We have so many mullets in town,” said co-organizer Sarah Bedford. “My father-in-law had one for 60 years.”

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Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles
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Pop Culture
Invicta's Star Wars Watch Collection Gives Geek Chic a High-End Makeover
Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles
Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles

Whether you identify more as a bounty hunter, stormtrooper, or droid from the Star Wars universe, now you can express yourself in style. As Nerdist reports, Invicta and Sideshow Collectibles have teamed up to produce a line of watches that reimagine characters from the sci-fi franchise as high-fashion accessories.

Boba Fett, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, and a stormtrooper are all available as stainless steel wrist watches. Each product borrows design elements from its namesake character: The Boba Fett models, for example, match the red-and-green color scheme of the bounty hunter's suit, while the faces of the Darth Vader watches mimic the antagonist's iconic mask. The back of each watch is branded with the character's name, face, and the Star Wars logo.

You can get the watches with stainless steel and silicone bands for $299 apiece or spring for the full steel band for $379. And because the Star Wars franchise is far from finished, the watches won't go out of style anytime soon.

Looking for a cheaper way to express your love for the movies? There's plenty of affordable Star Wars-branded swag to choose from.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of Invicta and Sideshow Collectibles.

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