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White Walkers in the first and second season were nearly naked.

This guy from the start of the first season wears a raggy loin cloth, a vambrace, and boots. His three brothers in the background wear similar loin cloths and nothing on their chests.

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This walker from the end of the second season has a vambrace on his forearm and not much else.

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Later in the series, they are wearing clothes and even armor.

Fast-forward a few seasons to the Battle of Hardhome, and we see multiple walkers and the Night King all wearing clothes and armor. (Never guessed he was just a little vain enough to wear a decoration on his upper chest.)

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We saw 4 walkers and the King in the Battle of the Tree all wearing armor.

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Why did they start wearing armor? (Related questions: Why would they even care to wear clothes at all? They don't need clothing to protect them from blizzards. Do they make their own armor and clothes?)

I prefer answers from the book (even if the answer says the question is based on a false premise) more than answers from the TV series.

Edit to add: I am not asking about the wights, just the White Walkers and the Night King. I assume the wights and skeletons have whatever clothes they wore at the moment of re-animation and will wear those until the clothes are so shredded they fall off.

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    They went shopping – Aegon Jan 9 '17 at 8:09
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    Out of universe, it's cheaper to do guys in clothes with blue face makeup than it is to do CGI frost monsters. While naked actors in the snow may turn blue without makeup, they will likely also charge you more for their acting. – Paul Jan 9 '17 at 11:49
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    I'm not 100% sure but I think the first time we see white walkers wearing armour is also the first time we see them after Sam kills one with an obsidian dagger. I think before this, they were always sporting the "winter casual" skirts-and-bracers look. Maybe there was an off-screen "This s*** just got real. Put your obsidian-proof vests on, lads, and meet me by the baby-sacrificing table" – user568458 Jan 9 '17 at 12:48
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    @Aegon Nice! : ) In all fairness, in the show maybe they don't bother with armour when wandering the woods picking off the odd stray wildling or ranger - but when gearing up for a larger campaign - they get dressed. – Grimm The Opiner Jan 9 '17 at 16:56
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    @Paul leave the actors enough time in the snow and you won't have to pay them anymore! :-D – SJuan76 Jan 9 '17 at 21:02
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Since you have added the books tag, I will avoid the show heresy and answer this from the books.

What do Others aka White Walkers wear?

In books, others do not run around naked. They are dressed in a special magical armor which camouflages them into their surroundings.

From wiki:

"Had many talks with George. He told me of the ice swords, and the reflective, camouflaging armor that picks up the images of the things around it like a clear, still pond. He spoke a lot about what they were not, but what they were was harder to put into words."
-Tommy Patterson (Comic book artist for the series)

Also:

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.
AGOT - Prologue

So while we may not know what exactly do they wear due to reflective nature of their garb, we know they wear an armor so presumably some other garment underneath as well. Therefore, The idea that they run around naked or with minimal clothing is absurd.

As far as books are concerned, they always wear armor (Except maybe when it is a nice sunny day, then I presume they go sunbathing on the Frozen shore).

A depiction of Others from The World of Ice and Fire companion book:

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Why did the Show depict them as a naturist club in the beginning?

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    Yes, I prefer an answer from the book over one from the tv show. – RichS Jan 9 '17 at 8:30
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    Given what you said here, I would much prefer the tv series portray the walkers wearing armor with shifting colors like moonlight dappled on water. It would have added to their eerieness of the Others. – RichS Jan 9 '17 at 8:34
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    To answer your rhetorical question about why they made then more naked on the show. That's easy... it's HBO. – Dancrumb Jan 9 '17 at 12:50
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    I will avoid the show heresy And that's why I like you so much! – Möoz Jan 9 '17 at 21:20
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    @Liath The higher ranking ones get fancy clothes and the lower ones don't get even the basics? I won't stand for this injustice!!! Proletarians of the undead North unite, you have nothing to lose except your chains! :P – Aegon Aug 22 '17 at 13:12
0

So of the two types, those who appear with very little clothing I guess have been in the ground dead for longer, maybe when the snows weren't as far south as they are now - this allowed their clothes to rot away - some of them are as you've noticed almost just skeletons as if the very flesh has rotted off their undead bones.

The same way, those who have died in the snow - they haven't rotted much at all (the two crows who came back and attacked were still fully clothed) and so they are clothed as zombies too. Along with these the wrights too have clothes and the full armour they apparently 'died' in. I presume they were brought back as wrights almost immediately hence there was no damage/rotting of clothing.

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    The others aren't dead. They are different type of life. A different species if you will. – Aegon Jan 9 '17 at 11:14
-3

To answer this question I will seperate the White Walkers into two groups, the ordinary White Walker Zombies and the more concious Lords, riding on Horses.

White Walker Zombies - since they pretty much completely lose their consciousness when being resurrected, they do not care about ther clothing. They'll just keep on wearing what they wore when being killed an resurrected. That explains why some wear clothing in very bad shape while some do not wear some clothing at all due to the long time they've been walkers already.

White Walker Lords - while the ordinary zombies seem to have lost all consciousness, these Lords including the Night Kind seem to have kept it, since they are not in a brainless frenzy to kill every living thing. As a result of that and additionally in order to display their higher rank, they wear better clothing. Since they are not in this brainless frenzy as the others, their clothing does also not wear down.

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    White Walkers are the ones known as The Others or as you put it, White Walker Lords. The Zombies you refer to are known as Wights. But yeah in show canon, they refer to both of them as White Walkers – Aegon Jan 9 '17 at 8:08
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    This typology doesn't seem in line with the show or books. What you call zombies are known as wights, and are much as you describe them. The Others/White Walkers, on the other hand, are something different, and likely not zombies at all. – Adamant Jan 9 '17 at 8:09
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    @Derpcode I am not asking about wights, just the White Walkers. I am not concerned about whether the skeletons and zombies wear clothes. – RichS Jan 9 '17 at 8:16
  • “in show canon, they refer to both of them as White Walkers” — do they? I thought the wights/White Walker distinction was pretty established in the show. – Paul D. Waite Aug 22 '17 at 17:52

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