” What is a sutler? ” I hear you innocently ask.
A sutler, child, is an opportunity to lose your soul, bank account, and toes. A sutler is the authentically recreated, 100% accurate Whore Of Babylon – made from original sealed patterns stored in the Tower. The Tower of Babel. A sutler’s tent is the closest thing to an opium den full of brass buttons that you will ever see.
A sutler is a storekeeper who offers modern reproductions of goods and garments that have long been found wanting by our ancestors and which are now wanted by us. Whether our descendants will also clamour for hoodies and track suit pants, for thongs and nylon jackets, for half worn-out ripped jeans, and overblown running shoes will remain to be seen. I am hoping not. I hope that the modern fashions sold at Target, Walmart, Big W and The Gap prove to be just a brief bubble of visual horror in the stream of consciousness. When the volcano erupts over the shopping mall I hope the archeologists never dig it out.
Where were we? Oh, yes, the sutler. They sell edged weapons made in Pakistan and India and antique firearms made in Italy. There are Chinese wind-up watches and gew gaws produced in Southeast Asia and South America. And craft items made in Britain, Europe, and North America that can be adapted to the hobby. It is possible to be clothed and accoutred entirely in a selected period – in some cases elegantly. In all cases you will look glossier than most people of the original period ever did for a couple of years as the goods you inhabit wear in. Then there will be a period when you look exactly like an Osprey or Dover illustration. Thereafter you will look shabby.
THAT is the point at which your appearance will be in tune with the clothing. If you can have brought your mind and your knowledge into focus on the time period and have found your own place in it, you will start to have a real personality of the time. You will be an asset to your group or acquaintances. You will also be broke.
Sutlers. That’s the reason.