What most people think of as a pirate - tricorne hat or bandanna, wooden leg, gold dubloons, skull and crossbones flag, rum etc. - didn't exist until at least the 17th century. However raiders or pirates certainly plied their trade earlier. They just looked like a slightly more outrageous version of a courtier of the time, or when at sea were fairly indistiguishable from other seamen or mariners.
Your persona is a pirate
- You might call yourself a pirate, raider, corsair, or adventurer (a captain who finances the expedition), but not bucaneer or privateer which are out-of-period terms.
- Your ship may ply the waters of the Caribbean, Irish, Baltic, North or Mediterranean Seas or the Indian waters near Persia or in the South China Sea or Sea of Japan.
- Letters of Marque were given in 16th C England, so you can operate freely against England's enemies for a small percentage tax to the crown (and what cargo they don't know about they won't miss the tax on).
- If you are a Barbary corsair, you will be working for the Ottoman Empire under a local governor. However, you may originate from a large variety of European lands.
- Your weapons of choice during a boarding action would be short swords like the cutlass, a boarding axe, a flintlock pistol or muskatoon. When ashore you would prefer a short knife and/or belaying pin.
- You are probably male, but could be a female captain if you had the money (and didn't care about your reputation)
- This is probably not a full-time career - you're either a seaman on merchant trips or a gentleman when not on expedition
- At sea you dress sensibly like a mariner of the day - warm clothing, long shirt, canvas slops (baggy breeches), leather or canvas sleeveless jerkin, warm thrumm cap and depending on the region you are sailing in you may or may not wear shoes.
- When you go ashore you display the sucess of your mission - wearing the most outrageous and expensive clothes you've managed to plunder, or bought with your booty. These might be drawn from different cultures, but all reflect the styles available in your chosen region and time.
- If you are a gentleman, your expedition pirating might give you some wonderful stories to tell at dinner parties for the next year.
- Jan Rogozinski, "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates", ISBN 1-85326-384-2
- http://www.skraeling.sca.org/xiphias/newsletter/V4-1-pirate.html: SCA-targetted information about late period pirates, with varying degrees of accuracy