Silver Shirt worn by ‘Great Lords’ of Peru (800 AD – 1532 AD)

During the the 9th to 16th centuries, rulers of the north coast of Peru used bright clothing to distinguish themselves from ordinary subjects and soldiers. Much like the feather helmets of Hawaiian chiefs, Peruvian ‘Great Lords’ wore shirts covered with metal plaques, which served two purposes. The first was visual impact. As the metal plaques reflected the light of a bright sun, the shining visuals would have been spectacular, impressing upon soldiers the ruler’s supernatural capabilities. The second purpose was symbolic. Silver was associated with cosmic entities such as the moon and stars, which were believed to be inhabitants of “the upper world”. By wearing the silver shirt, the ruler was establishing a strict hierarchy between him and his subjects, distinguishing himself as a deity.

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