More Than Metal: Amazing Historical Suits of Armor

More Than Metal: Amazing Historical Suits of Armor


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Armor was commonly used by warriors for protection during combat. Some of these, such as the lorica segmentata of the Roman legionaries and the plate armor of the medieval knight, are well-known examples of these protective suits. Others are perhaps less famous and will form the subject of this article. The suits of armor will be divided into three types – those made of metal, those constructed using animal parts, and those made with plant material.

Metal Suits

Metal is one of the most common materials that was used for the creation of armor. One of the major advantages of metal over many other materials is its hardness. This allowed the armor to better protect its wearer from enemy attacks. Whilst metal was a commonly used material for armor, there are certain metal suits of armor that are quite unique. One of these is the Japanese Tatami Gusoku , which translates as ‘to fold armor’, and its main components were an armored jacket, a foldable cuirass, a helmet and a hood for head protection, and other parts that corresponded with those of a full suit of traditional Japanese armor. The unique feature of this armor was that it could be folded and packed into a small box, thus allowing it to be easily transported by individual soldiers.

Japanese folding armor (tatami gusoku), Edo period. ( CC BY 2.5 )

Some suits of armor that utilised metal in their construction were further strengthened by animal parts. One example of this is a suit of armor made by the Moro people of the Philippines. This war coat dates to the 19 th or 20 th century AD, and consists of a chain mail reinforced with pieces of buffalo horn.

Moro armor, Philippines, undated, horn plates and mail - Glenbow Museum Canada. ( CC0 1.0 )

  • The discovery of 4,000-year-old Siberian knight armor made of bone
  • 2,000-year-old Warrior Armor Made of Reindeer Antlers Found on the Arctic Circle
  • Cataphracts: Armored Warriors and their Horses of War

Animal Part Armor

Bone was also used on its own as a material for making armor. One such example is a suit of bone armor that was discovered during an excavation in Omsk, Siberia. This artefact, which was found to have been surprisingly well preserved, is thought to have been between 3500 and 3900 years old.

Suit of armor made of bone found in Omsk, Siberia. Credit: The Siberian Times

Another example of such a type of armor comes from Ust-Poloi, which is also in Siberia. This suit, which is 2000 years old, was found to have been made using reindeer antlers. Both of these suits of armor were buried separately from their owners, and in the latter case it has been speculated that it had been intended to serve as an offering to the ancient polar gods.

Apart from bones, other animal parts were also used in the making of armor. One of these, for example, is a crocodile skin suit of armor dating to between the 3 rd and 4 th centuries AD. This suit of armor consisted of a piece of body armor and a helmet, both of which were made of crocodile skin that was sewn together. It has been suggested that this armor was not used during combat, but during certain military-style ceremonies of the regional crocodile cult.

Suit of parade armor used by a Roman soldier during cult processions, consisting of a helmet and cuirass, both made of sewn crocodile skin. British Museum ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )

Another suit of armor, that may have been used other than during combat but would have been more useful as a symbol of luxury, is a body armor made of pangolin scales. This was given by the Maharajah of Datiah to the now defunct India Museum in London. This suit of armor was ornamented with gold, and had turquoises and garnets encrusted into it.

The Use of Plant Material

Plant material is perhaps an unlikely source of material for the manufacture of armor. An example of such a type of armor comes from Kiribati in Oceania. This particular suit of armor, one of which is today kept in the British Museum, and another in the Pitt Rivers Museum, was made primarily of wood and coconut fibre (coir).

Wood and coconut fibre (coir) from 19 th Century Kiribati. British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )

In addition, human hair was included for decorative purposes. Plant materials were also used by the ancient Greeks to make body armor. Between 600 and 200 BC, there was a type of armor known as linothorax (which literally translates as ‘linen chest’) that was highly popular in Greece, as well as in other parts of the Mediterranean. Whilst linen does not seem like the type of material that would protect its wearer from enemy weapons, modern reconstructions have found that it was indeed an effective type of armor, and would have protected a soldier from swords and arrows of that period. Better metallurgy and stronger bows that were developed during the 2 nd century BC, however, made the linothorax obsolete.

Chukchi walrus hide and wood armor from Eastern Siberia with back shield characteristic of Chukchi and Koryak armors

Featured image: Japanese parade helmet, made from iron, gilded copper, lacquered leather, silk . ()

By Wu Mingren


STEEL MASTERY

Manufacture was established in the 2001 by the group of people, who loves history and armour.

  • Dress-making establishment (where we sew medieval dresses and costumes)
  • Tailor shop (where we sew gambesons, aketons and other padded underarmour)
  • Forge shop (where we make full-plate armour, brigandines and chainmails)
  • Leather workshops (where we craft leather belts, bags, etc.)

Are you a reenactor or fencer, who participates in medieval combats? So, we will make reliable and durable body protection for you! Our handcrafted medieval armour will fit perfectly and protect you at BoTN and similar fights. It is compliant to standards of SCA and HMB. Do you take a part in medieval festival? We can make you perfect gown for such an occasion! A dress or costume made by your measures and historical patterns will fit you perfectly and make you look outstanding! Or, probably you are a fan of LARP? Then we offer your high-quality leather armour and accessories of the most popular characters from fantasy world. Are you looking for a gown for a masquerade, Halloween or a party with medieval dress code? So, you came to the right place! We will make you amazing attire that will be retained in your friends’ memory for a long time! If you didn’t find a model of the wished armour or costume in our medieval, so please send a pattern to us at [email protected] . We will be glad to turn your desires into reality!


The History of the Suit by Decade

At the beginning of the 19th century, men’s style in England was basically a costumey nightmare: Well-heeled gents wore coats with tails, silk stockings, knee breeches (?!), and worst of all, powdered wigs. But then Beau Brummell came along and basically invented the suit we’re all still wearing today.

Beau Brummell

If you appreciate the way a suit consists of two simple pieces that help you get dressed without a whole lot of fuss, thank Beau Brummell. Brummell was a mover and shaker in early 1800s English court life, arguably the original hipster, and definitely the man who changed the menswear game forever by rejecting the popular frock coats and powdered wigs of the time in favor of simple jackets and full-length trousers—which would eventually become the suits we know today. As legend has it, he influenced the upper echelon of British society by befriending the Prince (who would become King George IV), even though he wasn’t himself a wealthy noble. Goes to show you that you don’t need a ton of money to have impeccable taste. (That said, Brummell went on to flee England after racking up a shit ton of unpaid debts).

Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe made Brooks Brothers look cool before Washington was overrun by flag pins and combovers.

1900s: New Century, New Tailoring

When we interviewed Ellen Mirojnick, costume director of the stylish Showtime series The Knick, she told us that suits around 1900 were defined by “dark colors, dark wovens, sturdy fabrics, and heavy woolens” for most men. Those in more fashion-forward cities like Paris and London added a little more flair to their get-ups than those Stateside, but the fit of everything remained basically constant across the Atlantic. High button-stances (often accompanied by the now unheard of four button jackets), slim lapels, unreasonably high arm-holes, and high paper shirt collars rounded out the look. Three-piece suits were prevalent, often with a double-breasted vest worn under the single breasted jacket (which would be a risky and somewhat ill-advised look today).

Titanic Survivors

Nothing’s as embarrassing as showing up to picture day and having all your homies wearing the same thing as you.

The Boys of Peaky Blinders

Cillian Murphy rocks an airtie while starring as a gun-running gangster in this insanely stylish BBC series that’s currently streaming on Netflix in America.

Clive Owen in The Knick

His hair is disheveled (maybe it's from injecting all that cocaine), but his suit remains on point.

1920s: Blowin’ Money Fast

The roaring ‘20s were all about showing off your wealth, which meant elaborate, heavily-embellished new suits. Accessories like tie pins and tie bars came to the forefront, while colorful shirts, ties, and even the suits themselves were all representative of the boozed-up jazz vibes of the time. Pants were high-waisted and somewhat baggy, while jackets loosened up a bit from the armor-like turn-of-the-century tailoring, especially in more working-class circles.

Charlie Chaplin

America’s first movie star wore an exaggerated version of the everyday suits of the time, namely a skin-tight sportcoat and ballooning pants.

A (fictional) icon of considerable and conspicuous wealth, Gatsby emplified the bright, bold, and for-its-own-sake detailing of 1920’s fashion.

F.Scott Fitzgerald

The man who gave us Gatsby actually had a somewhat tame sense of style for the time, though he still indulged in the customary three piece suits and foofy pocket squares.

1930s: Bigger, Badder, Broker

The Great Depression left the country penniless—and flairless. Wide double-breasted suits in somber colors rose to prominence wide-legged pants proliferated.

American Soup Lines

You dress for the kinda year you’re having.

The most famous gangster of all-time was a rare exception to one of the most drab eras in American style. His signature look—three-piece suits and fat jewelry—is still emulated by wannabe big shots today.

Fred Astaire

Another exception to the times, Astaire danced his way into America’s heart and offered a little sartorial escapism in white suits, flashy shoes, and single button suits. Tom Ford would approve.

**1940s: When The Suit Gave Way to the Uniform **

America was at war, and natural fibers went into making military uniforms, not suits for the men who remained back home. So fabric was used sparingly, leading to an all-time low of three-piece suits, cuffs, and ticket pockets. Rayon also began to replace traditional wools and tweeds. It might sound dire, but the decade still gave birth to some style icons.

Bing Crosby

The man who brought us “White Christmas” was never seen without a crisp white dress shirt, which he often wore with a bow tie, or, more casually, tie-less.

Nat King Cole

Even back in the day men weren't safe from out of control pocket squares.

Humphrey Bogart

The decade’s biggest movie star remains the pinnacle of timeless high-class style.

Gary Cooper

Cooper starred in 84 movies over his career. When you’re on-screen that much, you tend to develop a uniform. When he wasn’t dressed up like a cowboy, Cooper rocked grey suits in classic fits.

1950s: Repression You Can Wear!

In hindsight, it’s a little ironic that the era of communism paranoia in America was also a time when men all dressed like clones. Dark suits, white shirts, dark ties, and white pocket squares didn’t just dominate—they were practically a requirement in business. Jackets and pants fit loosely, especially on the young up-and-coming rocker Elvis Presley, whose looser pants (and hips) gave America’s parents anxiety.

It’s near impossible to find a photo in which James Dean looks bad wearing clothes. So when he put on a three-piece suit, especially a dark one with slim lapels and a slim tie, he looked just about perfect.

Elvis Presley

Presley’s swagger carried over into his suit game, which consisted of looser fitting jackets rocked over polo shirts. His white socks set the stage for rock’s rebel style roots.

Frank Sinatra

Compared to Elvis, Frank might have been conservative, but he didn’t lack for confidence.

1960s: Apparently Suits Can Take Acid, Too

Thanks in no small part to Mad Men, we’re all familiar with—and influenced by—the look of the 1960s. But this was a decade of drastic change, and, as always, the way men dressed reflected what was going on in the broader culture. That means that in the early 60s, you see the residual effects of the cookie cutter ‘50s, but with slimmer everything—ties, lapels, and pants. Then came acid, the hippie movement, the culture wars. and things started to get far out.

Martin Luther King Jr

Dr. King’s suits were part politician, part preacher, all business (note the utilitarian metal donut buttons on his jacket).

Sure, the guy doesn’t actually exist, but he looks damn good doing it.

John F. Kennedy

JFK embodied what we now know as American preppy style, suits included. Pinstripe suit, white shirt, collegiate rep tie has remained a winning and unimpeachable style move ever since.

The Beatles

When they first appeared Stateside on the Ed Sullivan show, they were in matching dark suits. But with the ’70s on the horizon and Vietnam in full effect, Paul, John, George, and Ringo abandoned skinny suits in favor of clothes as groovy and psychedelic as their increasingly tripped-out music.

1970s: The Leisure Suit

In the 1970’s, suits continued to expand. Maybe it was a return to the wider lapels of the ‘30s and ‘40s—along with the synthetic fabrics of the World War II era—or maybe it was just too many drugs (and too much disco). Tie knots and shirt collars got so wide they now look comical, and there was more polyester in the streets than outside a SoulCycle class in 2015.

David Bowie

Even on the uber-weird, iconoclastic side of the spectrum (and in that world, Bowie is basically emperor), lapels were massive and tie knots were massiver in the ’70s.

Peter Finch

Of course, not everyone was down with maroon and mustard polyester three-pieces. In _Network, _Peter Finch still looked timeless.

1980s: Boss and The Bowery

Richard Gere’s game-changing Armani suit in American Gigolo is legendary for its looser fit and effortless swagger, and it cleared the way for the wide-shouldered, sleeves-rolled pastel yachting suits of Don Johnson on Miami Vice. On Wall Street, folks were dressing like Gordon Gekko in what would become known as “The Power Suit.” Basically the more conspicuous one’s wealth, the better. Padded shoulders, suspenders, banker stripes, pinstripes, double-breasted jackets, pleats, and an affinity for hair gel were all hallmarks of the “Greed is good” mentality.

Don Johnson

There’s a reason the white suit is a rare bird—it can make you look like a tablecloth with a head. Don’s white espadrilles weren’t helping.

Johnny Rotten

Meanwhile, in England and eventually CBGB in New York, punk rockers were turning the era on its head and inventing their own sense of style—suits most definitely included—that consisted of a hodge podge of old jackets, ripped jeans, and ironic neckties.

Gordon Gekko

Everyone remembers “Greed is good,” but what always stuck with us was Gordon’s attention to detail, i.e. his vanity. Suspenders, contrast collar shirts, and sophisticated tie bars didn’t just evoke power, they announced an air of superiority.

Pee-Wee Herman

Paul Reubens played his shrunken gray suit for laughs little did he know everyone would be dressing this way twenty years later thanks to Thom Browne.

1990s: The Suit Loses Its Way

The most memorable thing about suits in the ’90s is that they the lost the fight against business casual. With less men than ever suiting up for work, an entire generation forgot all the fundamentals. The oversized silhouette of the ‘80s stuck around, but minus the Wall Street swagger and sense of purpose. Pants were wide… but they just pooled around square-toed shoes. Ties were wide. but they were attached to billowing dress shirts and often featured cartoon characters and sports logos. Pleats were more popular than ever, but mostly to accommodate the expanding hips of Generation McDonalds and a misguided obsession with comfort. We can even admit that a few times in the ‘90s we may have steered you wrong (see Tiger Woods cover).

Pierce Brosnan

You know times were tough when even James Bond thought it was okay to rock a suit jacket with mom jeans.

Michael Keaton

Things weren’t much better for Batman, either.

Ok, so, obviously it wasn’t all bad. Then again, Brad Pitt can make anything look cool. (Even aviator glasses with see-through lenses and hair gel. Yikes.)

Props to a young Jalen Rose for making a splash, but in the ➐s, NBA style was lightyears away from the high standards we hold it to today.

David Letterman

Another bright spot: David Letterman, in his iconic double-breasted suits that matched the personality of his gap-toothed grin.

2000s: The Suit Rises Again

In the new millenium, the world of suits exploded into the multi-faceted and endless universe we know it to be today. In the early-aughts, Hedi Slimane changed the game by sending super-skinny, idealized versions of 1960s rocker style down the Paris runways, ushering in a new era of fitted clothing. A couple years later, Thom Browne doubled down on Hedi’s blueprint with cropped pants and jackets, driving home the idea that suits should fit slim by exaggerating it. _Mad Me_n featured Don Draper in narrow-lapeled suits and perfectly-folded pocket squares, cementing the 1960s as the classic era when American men got it right. Towards the end of the aughts, the Internet’s ever-growing crop of menswear blogs—rather, #menswear—introduced Americans to soft-shouldered Italian suits, “sprezz,” and “Geezer style.” NBA players got in on the action, too, sometimes taking things a step too far in their declarations of personal style and zealousness to compete off the floor. Today, whether you’re into classic ’60s tailoring, loud patterns, hard-boiled wool three-piece suits, or dressing like your grandpa, there’s a suit out there for you.

Lapo Elkann

The rise of street style blogs made Lapo Elkann, heir to the Fiat fortune, an instant micro-celebrity. No one else in the new millenium has worn suits with as much over-the-top panache.

Wide lapels and tight waists are some of the hallmarks of a Tom Ford suit, but it’s luxury and opulence that are its most memorable traits. If you’re trying to look modern with a wink at 1970s glamour, then Tom Ford is the man—and the brand—for you.

The early aughts saw Jay Z in baggy T-shirts and Timberland boots, but towards the end of the decade he caught the suit-revival wave and started donning some mean tailored beauties.

Justin Timberlake

Timberlake brought sexy back in three-piece suits on his FutureSex / LoveSounds tour, while simultaneously birthing the “sneakers with a suit” look we’re still addicted to today. He also happens to be one of the only guys this century to drop a song explicitly about getting suited-up, so bonus points there.

Tom Brady hasn’t just won more Super Bowls in the 21st century than any other quarterback. He’s been the league’s best dressed player for close to a decade. We’d like to take all the credit… But maybe Tom Ford and Gisele deserve some, too.

Since 1957, GQ has inspired men to look sharper and live smarter with its unparalleled coverage of style, culture, and beyond. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-ready videos to electric live events, GQ meets millions of modern men where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.

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8 Tactics

The Mongols were renowned as effective and terrifying battle tacticians, who honed their skills by fighting a lot. Even famous historical commanders, like Alexander the Great and Hannibal Barca, start to look a lot less impressive when their achievements are compared to lesser Mongol generals.

The Mongols relied heavily on shock tactics. Fake withdrawals, surprise attacks, psychological warfare, and even hostage-taking and human shields were classic Mongol moves. They liked to start a fight by showering the enemy with armor-piercing arrows, followed by a brutal cavalry charge. Often, the enemy would be lured toward hidden archers by a weaker Mongol force that pretended to flee. When attacking large targets (such as big cities, which they could easily take two at a time), they liked to advance on extremely wide fronts, using the Yam system to communicate. They were also experts at siege technology and were deliberately brutal to people who didn&rsquot submit to their rule. This tactical combination made them the premier fighting force of their era.


More Than Metal: Amazing Historical Suits of Armor - History

Chainmail , also known as chain mail, chain maille, or just mail or maille, is a type of armor or jewelry that's made from small metal rings linked together in a pattern. Mail can generally be punctured by a spear or cut by the blow from a heavy axe or sword. Its flexibility and ability to expand means that its wearer is vulnerable to blunt weapons.

However, it was an effective defense for its ability to stop cutting weapons from piercing the skin. The word chainmail is of relatively recent origin, having been in use only since the 1700s. Prior to this it was simply referred to as mail.

The word "mail" refers to the armor material, not the garment made from it. A shirt made from mail is hauberk , if knee-length haubergeon if waist-length. Mail socks are called chausses , a mail hood is a coif and mail mittens are mitons' . A mail collar hanging from a helmet is a aventail .

Samples of mail go back as far as the Etruscans, over 3000 years ago. Etruscan constructed in a pattern that is more closely related to Japanese patterns than the common European 4-in-1 pattern. Because the Etruscan Mail pattern is more akin to Japanese patterns and because historical examples of mail don't appear for another 2000 years, it's assumed that Etruscan mail isn't the base for European mail. Most scholars believe that European mail developed from a ring Lamellar type of armor.

Around the 2nd Century B.C. the Romans found that the Gauls wore the first known examples of European pattern mail shirts and soon adopted it as a common armor for their secondary troops. Roman mail shirts were referred to as Lorica Hamata.

Lorica Hamata is interesting in that half of the links that made up the shirt were solid rings punched from metal sheets. This technique continued in some later European Mail examples but most European mail is made fully from drawn-wire links. Another example of mail with punched links is called "theta" or "bar link" which comes from Persia and India. It's called "theta" or "bar link" because the punched links have a bar across their center which makes them resemble the Greek letter "theta".

From 200 B.C. through the fall of the Roman Empire and into the Dark Ages, mail was a common armor all over Europe even down into what we now call the Middle East, north into the Viking Cultures and even in the far east where the Japanese developed their own styles of mail.

Chainmail armor in the Middle Ages was achieved through a process of creating wire from steel. Once the wire portion of the process was complete, the blacksmith would form them into little interlocking rings through the use of a hand-cranked machine. The most common form of chainmail armor utilized an overlapping ring system in which rows of rings were interlinked for strength. Flat rings were thinner in one direction than the other, which meant that they had less of a tendency to open up when struck with the tip or side of a sword. The chain mail metal heated and cooled quickly and was constructed over an open flame. Inserting the actual rings was a tedious process requiring more than one person to help. About 40,000 rings were required to make one shirt of chainmail armor.

In Europe, as plate armor began to develop, it became common to use mail to protect areas that needed more flexibility than the rigid metal allowed. Mail became common in elbow joints, knees and etc. It wasn't long before full plate armor became more popular and, with the invention of fully articulated joints, mail started to loose its popularity.

Another type of mail is Japanese mail. Common Japanese patterns were lighter and more open than European, but were made of superior quality tempered wire that wasn't riveted. Some links in Japanese mail were double or even triple wrapped for strength. Like the best European mail makers, the Japanese paid attention to which parts of the body the armor was supposed to be protecting. Mail over one's chest would be thick and strong, but on an elbow where flexibility was more important, it would be lighter.

It's not really fair to compare Europe to Japan, as the fighting styles of each evolved differently. European armor needed to be heavier to deal with the bigger, crushing weapons common in their battles. Japanese combat techniques used lighter, faster weapons where mobility was more of a concern.

The Japanese were also used mail as decoration or in combination with plates. The Japanese word for chain is Kusari and each of their patterns had its own proper name. The common 4-in-2 square Japanese pattern is called Hitoye-Gusari. A similar 6-in-2 hexagonal Japanese pattern is called Hana-Gusari.

Mail is still being used today by a few industries. Butchers commonly wear fine mail gloves to protect their hands while shark divers wear entire suits of fine mail. This fine mail is made from strong, welded links and is woven on large machines.

There are other decorative and practical uses for mail currently. Historical recreation groups, Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) groups, as well as the fashion and costuming industries. Modern chainmail artists also have access tools and materials that historical armor makers didn't.


The ongoing race between arms and armor in the Middle Ages led to the emergence and spread of many types of protection, such as mail-brigandine armor, mail-plate armor, and finally full plate armor.

Thinking of the Middle Ages as an era when warriors covered in steel plates became a mass phenomenon is, if nothing else, inaccurate. Full plate armor was widespread for a relatively short period of time, and even at the peak of popularity it was quite expensive. So, what preceded it?

For quite a long time &mdash from the X to the XIII centuries &mdash basic metal armor for those who could afford it consisted of long mail reaching the knees, with full length or partial sleeves (reaching the elbows), as well as a coif (a mail hood, separate or connected to the mail). In the latter case, the mail was called a &ldquohauberk&rdquo. Front and back lower parts of the mail had cuts for more convenient movement, as well as providing more comfort when sitting in a saddle. Knights also wore a gambeson under the mail &mdash you can read more about this type of protection in one of our previous posts. Often, to protect the legs they also wore mail hose.

In the XIII century, a combination of chain mail (also known as maille, or just mail) and a coat of plates (and, later, a brigandine), provided more protection than just mail alone. Both the coat of plates and brigandine are armor made of metal plates, riveted on cloth, quilted linen or another fabric &mdash sometimes leather. There is no clear criteria to distinguish one from another, but it is generally assumed that a coat of plates consists of a smaller number of larger plates compared to a more sophisticated brigandine, and usually closes in the back. Early brigandine-mail protection consisted of a breastplate or a vest worn over the mail (hauberk). A statue of St. Maurice (1250) in Magdeburg is a good example of this combination.


St. Maurice statue, 1250. Magdeburg

In the XIV century the mail and coat of plates combination was still widely used, but a chest part of the protection became a larger curved breastplate which was much harder to penetrate with a spear, pointed sword and other weapons of the period. In parallel with this, some elements of plate armor begin to appear: first, a plackart and faulds covering the stomach of its wearer, and then a full cuirass. Due to its high cost, at the beginning of the XIV century cuirasses were available to few knights and nobles. In addition to that, we can see a spread of other types of steel plate protection, such as bracers, which protected from the elbow to the hand. From here, we can see the development of more extensive armor, such as full arm harnesses, greaves and kneecops.

In the second half of the XIV century the coat of plates became more complex in shape: more rounded, gradually approaching a narrow waist silhouette with a rounded single plate chestpiece.

The end of the XIV and the beginning of the XV centuries was a time characterized by a huge variety of combinations of armor: mail, coat of plates / brigandine and mail, brigandine and breastplate, full cuirass, accompanied or not by all kinds of bracers, arm harnesses, kneecops and greaves, as well as closed and open helmets with a variety of visors.

And it is the XV century that we can truly call the age of plate. Due to the development of metalworking and manufacturing technologies plate armor became way more accessible and, as a result, appeared in large numbers among knights and, to a lesser extent, infantry. Also, during this period, the fashion of covering armor with layers of fabric goes away, and the typical look for this period is shining (or not so much) &ldquobare&rdquo exposed metal armor without a surcoat. The new shining look was often called a &ldquowhite harness&rdquo.


Late XV c. armor, Thun Sketchbook

Among our products there are a few examples of the armor typical for the XV century: a blackened &ldquoWayward Knight&rdquo armor set with a coat of plates, that represents a transitional knight&rsquos protection between the centuries, a knight armor kit &ldquoPaladin&rdquo, representing the full plate armor from the middle of the century, and a more sophisticated premium-looking and aristocratic &ldquoGothic Armour Knight Kit&rdquo, inspired by a functional Gothic harness from the late XV century. We have already published a blog post dedicated to the Gothic armor. If you want to read more about this magnificent invention of the European armorers &mdash make sure to check it out!

C. Blair, a famous British historian and armament specialist, called the time from 1410 to 1500 a &ldquogreat period in the history of knightly protective armament,&rdquo since he believed that, although a high-quality armor was produced in later periods too, never again did they combine such excellence with an understanding of the material which they now mostly worked with in their products. Jewelry in the armor of this era played a minor role, and the armorers focused on the perfection of the form, so that people in this armor were justly called &ldquosteel sculptures&rdquo. Later, on the contrary, the decoration passed any measure.

By the middle of the 15th century, two main centers (and two different schools) were formed, producing full plate armor: the first one in Northern Italy, in Milan, and the second one in Northern Germany, in Augsburg. But, of course, there were many different local productions that basically copied popular samples of the above mentioned schools, sometimes modifying them to a greater or lesser extent.


A typical gothic knight armor, 1480&ndash1490. Ingoldstadt, Germany, Bavarian Military Museum

The famous British historian David Nicolle in his work &ldquoFrench Armies of the Hundred Years War&rdquo cites an excerpt from an essay by the unknown author of the book &ldquoDu Costume Militaire des Français en 1446&rdquo, who gives the following description of the equipment of those years, starting with a &ldquolance&rdquo &mdash basic cavalry unit of the time: &ldquoFirstly the said men-at-arms are commonly decked, when they go to war, in entire white harness. That is to say close cuirass, vambraces, large garde-braces, leg harness, gauntlets, sallet with visor and a small bevor that covers only the chin. Each is armed with a lance and a long light sword, a sharp dagger hanging on the left side of the saddle, and a mace. Each man must also be accompanied by a coutiller [squire] equipped with a sallet, harnois de jambes, haubergeon [hauberk], jacque [padded jack], brigandine or corset, armed with dagger, sword and a vouge [vogue] or demi-lance. Also a page or varlet with the same armour and one or two weapons. The archer wear leg armour, salets, heavy jacques lined with linen, or brigandines, bow in hand and quiver at side.&rdquo

As we can see, pages and squires, accompanying knights, had simpler protection typical in previous century: a mail hauberk and a brigandine, but with a more modern type of helmet. This is dictated both by tasks performed on the battlefield and by a trivial reason &mdash an economic one. Not so many soldiers could afford a full plate armor.

So, how much did it cost? Let us turn to historical sources and try to compare the costs of the XV century plate armor with something from modernity for clarity.

Another quote from the above mentioned &ldquoFrench Armies of the Hundred Years War&rdquo: &ldquoThe 125 to 250 livres tournois which one young nobleman required to fully equip himself represented eight to sixteen months&rsquo wages for an ordinary man-at-arms, and clearly applied to the best possible gear. Even ordinary equipment remained expensive. Salets were valued at between 3 and 4 livres tournois, a jacque, corset or brigandine at 11 livres. A full set of such armour and weaponry cost around 40 livres while the cost for a complete lance was from 70 to 80 livres.&rdquo

Alan Williams in &ldquoThe Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Amour in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period&rdquo provides some very interesting facts. For example, due to the change in technology at some point the production of mail has become more labor-intensive and less profitable than the production of plate armor: &ldquoWhen labour costs rose after the Black Death, then the price of mail rose accordingly. In an era of rising prices, it ceased to be an economically attractive way of making armour. Indeed, by the 15th century the cost of a mail shirt (4.59 gulden) at Iserlohn [Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia] was notably greater than the cost of plate armour (4.33 gulden).&rdquo

Also, in the book we find a table with horseman&rsquos and foot-soldier&rsquos armor prices:

DateLocationFoot-soldier&rsquos armor priceHorseman&rsquos armor priceEquivalent days&rsquo wages
1437 Westphalia £1 25
1441 England £8.33
£5&mdash£6 for imported Milanese armor
100&ndash166
1468 England
(Milanese Armor)
£7 100&ndash166

Since many historians use the infantry's salary of the time as a reference to estimate the cost of armor in monthly wages, we suggest using a similar means of assessment. According to open sources, a US Army corporal earns about $30,000 a year, which gives us a monthly wage of $2,500. Now, this means that depending on the type, quality, place of manufacture, and finishing, a set of XV century plate armor would cost from $8,000 to $40,000 or more. At the same time, a simple set of armor for a regular foot soldier, especially if some obsolete pieces of equipment were used, could cost around $2,000 &mdash but a good one would still be somewhere near $4,000 and more.

When we talk about this price range, we still mean one of the most numerous parts of the armies &mdash men-at-arms &mdash ordinary soldiers, not the true elite, though their status allowed them to be referred to as &ldquogentlemen&rdquo. By definition, those who fought in full plate armor were called 'men at arms', while a knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a political leader. And the price difference between the regular men-at-arms&rsquo plate armor and knight&rsquos plate armor is huge! It can be compared with a difference between a regular modern business suit and a modern exclusive designer limited edition bespoke business suit. Such armor was made to order by renowned armorers, and, as a rule, had decals and decorations, even if we are talking about combat, not ceremonial armor, and its cost converted by the above mentioned method was in the range of $100,000 to $250,000.

Also, let us not forget another important detail. A knight usually fights on a horseback. And a dead or seriously wounded horse is a huge problem, as the medieval armor ceases to play a significant role when you are thrown to the ground and surrounded by the enemy. A thin blade of a cheapest dagger in the joints of the armor caused the inglorious death of a myriad noble knights. The conclusion here is that your horse also needs reliable protection, otherwise your shiny armor can quickly change its owner!

And, of course, our ancestors began to create armor for horses &ldquoen masse&rdquo as soon as the technology and the economy allowed it. Here is another quote from David Nicolle: &ldquo. given the threat from English longbowmen, it is not surprising that the XIV century saw considerable development in horse armour. Early chamfrons covered only the front of the horse&rsquos head, though some had and extended pol at the back. New forms which appeared later in the XIV century were larger, covering not only the back of the head but having a bulbous projection over the nose and pierced cups covering the eyes.&rdquo


XV c. German Gothic Armor for Horse, Wallace Collection, London

Now, keeping in mind the above mentioned prices for the knightly armor, you can roughly imagine how much the horse&rsquos armor would cost. Overall, expenses needed to equip a medieval European knight could go up to $500,000. Some researchers and medieval bloggers even say numbers go up to $3,500,000, but we could not find sources or historical examples of such an expensive armor. Nevertheless, we consider it possible. Perhaps the mentioned price was set for some very exclusive and richly decorated armor.

In addition, because of the spread and improvement of plate armor, in the XV century there was a gradual abandonment of shields as such. Shields turned into bucklers &mdash small round fist shields, necessarily made of steel and with an umbon. They became a substitute for the knightly targe in foot combat, where they were used to both parry and strike with umbon or edge.

In the late XV &mdash early XVI centuries, due to the gradual improvement of firearms two opposite processes occurred: if the armor of the cavalry was being increasingly strengthened and thickened, the infantry, on the contrary, becomes more and more &ldquoexposed&rdquo. In this period the famous &ldquolandsknechts&rdquo appeared &mdash German mercenaries who served during the reign of Maximilian I (1486&mdash1519) and his grandson Charles V (1519&mdash1556). This infantry unit used only the cuirasses with tassets &mdash at best. But since in Europe the cavalry was always a smaller part of the armies, we can observe a certain decrease in the proportion of full plate armor among military forces.

Thus, it is precisely the XV century that can be called the era of warriors protected by plates of steel.


8. Henry’s intended tomb is actually home to another famous figure.

Years before his death, Henry VIII made plans to build a monumental tomb for himself and Jane Seymour, his favorite queen and the mother of his only surviving male heir. Henry confiscated a black marble sarcophagus (originally intended for the powerful churchman Cardinal Wolsey) to be used at the center of the tomb, but during the tumultuous years after his death in 1547, the monument was never completed. Instead, Henry and Jane were left to rest in peace in what were supposed to be temporary lodgings in a crypt at Windsor Castle. Two and a half centuries later, Henry’s intended sarcophagus did become part of an ornate national monument when it became the final resting place of Horatio Nelson, the great British naval hero of the Napoleonic Wars.


More Than Metal: Amazing Historical Suits of Armor - History

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

Battles ( Score: 2, Funny)

While it has long been assumed that heavy medieval armor limited mobility, and that this contributed to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt in 1415

Nonsense. It's well established that being French contributes to the outcome of battles, such as the Battle of Agincourt. The effects of armor is minor in comparison.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Really? They totally sucked in 1871.

Re: ( Score: 3)

Napoleon was Italian :-) ( Score: 3)

No I meant the Napoleonic Wars where France had the whole world on the run for almost 20 years.

"Napoleon was born in Corsica to parents of noble Genoese ancestry", so he was actually Italian not French.:-)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon [wikipedia.org]

Corsica was ruled by Genoa (part of Italy) for 400 or so years, had a 20-something year rebellion, 15 or so years of independence and was then conquered by France shortly before Napoleon was born. Its constitution was written in Italian and Italian was the dominant language long after Napoleon's death.

Before commencer à la flamme please note the ":-

Re: ( Score: 2)

US Schools ( Score: 2)

'The US wasn't scared of France then.' no they where too busy repainting the White house to care.

Interestingly, US Schools teach that the British torched the White House, but they usually omit that it was done in retaliation for the U.S.'s burning the houses of Parliament in Canada--which is why the Canadian capital was moved to Ottawa.

Re:Battles ( Score: 5, Informative)

Re: ( Score: 2)

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The London Underground is not a political movement, I looked it up.

Re: ( Score: 2)

At least the French never got beaten by the Canadians.

Re:Battles ( Score: 5, Interesting)

Americans have this tunnel vision with regards to the French, and assume they can't win wars because they got their ass kicked in WWII. They seem to think its funny even - even though if you mention the French in any regard on a forum, you can be 100% assured that someone will make a comment concerning that defeat. Its long since gotten tired folks.

Somehow they seem to ignore the whole Napoleonic Wars period, you know 30+ years where the French were the most feared military force in the world. When the French *defined* military technology, techniques and achievements. Sure, they are kind of stuck up, and their recent military history hasn't been all that distinguished but to be fair they were also faced with the German army, in its time the most efficient military force in existence. It took a whole lot of countries to defeat the Germans, and yes that eventually included the USA.

Re: ( Score: 3)

Re: ( Score: 2, Interesting)

The US land army in the spring of 1940 was hardly better than the Dutch or Belgian army, and tiny compared to the French one. The quick French defeat is unfortunate, but no other army actually in existence at that time could have done better defending France from Germany. French performance on the unit level is also not notably worse than British, Belgian, and Dutch performance in that campaign, if one compares units of similar quality.

The French were Europe's most formidable military force in a number of p

Re: ( Score: 3)

Their surrender in WW2 is usually the first thing British people bring up too. The reality is that we were there too (Expeditionary Force) and got our arses kicked too. It would have been a lot worse for us if the French hadn't covered our fleeing from the battle at Dunkirk.

France was defeated militarily. People seem to think that when Churchill gave his "fight them on the beaches. we will never surrender" speech he was being serious, but no country ever fights to the last man. While I don't want to take

Re: ( Score: 2)

People seem to think that when Churchill gave his "fight them on the beaches. we will never surrender" speech he was being serious, but no country ever fights to the last man.

Speak for yourself. . Most people I know would have fought to the end against Hitler or anyone else invading us. There was a whole guerilla/insurgent organisation planned and trained, and it would have started by killing any collaborators.

Re: ( Score: 2)

The war was "lost" by the National Guard units at home who apparently didn't have the balls to shoot enough hippies to win the war.

Yes, the US failed to act like a properly fascist state, the soft bastards.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 3)

Yeah, like the losers who blockaded Lord Charles Cornwallis' resupply and reinforcements at Yorktown, and the ground troops that reinforced the perimeter to help prevent a breakout.. Without the help of the French, both in North America and in keeping the British busy elsewhere, there would likely be no United States of America.

Perhaps the French defeats that passed into folklore (Agincourt, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Dien Bien Phu) have done so because the French were, at the time, a major power (which takes wi

Re: ( Score: 3)

It is easy to go after the French, especially since they initially lost WWII. What most USA,USA,USA Americans tend to forget was that the first World War was largely a French vs Germany affair, with France fielding the largest army and suffering the largest casualties, not to mention that the war was fought largely on French soil. It was no poetic license when they said that the "flower of Europe's youth" were killed during WWI. The UK and US on other hand had the luxury of fighting without serious conseque

Re: ( Score: 2)

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Agincourt is also the battle Shakespeare wrote his "Band of Brothers" bit for--in a play which Data performed on the holodeck for Captain Picard. (The scene where the King is going hidden among his subjects.)

Thanks for the Star Trek reference, no one would have known what you were talking about otherwise.

Ergonomics ( Score: 5, Informative)

Re: ( Score: 3)

Re: ( Score: 2)

To be fair, he did imply that when he mentioned the weight being distributed on your pelvis (the hip bone).

Re:Ergonomics ( Score: 5, Informative)

Medieval armour supports it all over the body, causing body-wide muscle fatigue.

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

The amount of effort you spend wearing armour is way more dependent upon the fit than the total weight.

There's been a huge study of this in various groups of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Possibly the best proponent of this study that I know of is a gent known as His Majesty Cornelius von Beck, current king of Lochac (Australia). (www.sca.org.au). He's an armourer himself, and has studied - and worn - original 14th century plate. Serious students only can contact him via the SCA.

The SCA is the only organisation I know that chooses its leaders by rite of combat.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

Not a medieval armor expert, but didn't they have even better after the 14th century? I think that was the point of an arming doublet, a jacket or coat that was worn under say, plate maile that had straps and hooks for fastening armor on. I would imagine with such a garment that you could re-adjust where weigh was carried to a great degree.

Re: ( Score: 2)

I helped to dress a serious re-enactor once (in Brisbane - he's not with the SCA, though) - he had me put my foot on his waist while I pulled the war belt as tight as I could. The lower half of his chain-mail suit was then supported by the belt around his waist/hips, so the whole thing (approx 10kg) wasn't solely taken on his shoulders.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Not so. Medieval armour up to the 14th century had hip belts that supported the weight of the leg armour on the pelvis.

While it may take some of the weight while standing still, it won't do anything to help lift the legs while walking.

And if you transfer the weight onto the pelvis, what supports the pelvis?

Re:Ergonomics ( Score: 4, Insightful)

There's been a huge study of this in various groups of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

And some of it has even been reasonably scientific. The vast bulk of it doesn't even approach Mythbusters levels of scientific accuracy and diligence however. Though the SCA tried very hard, and has gotten markedly better over time, a scientific or academic organization it isn't.

(Disclaimer: Member of the SCA 25+ years now.)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re:Ergonomics ( Score: 5, Informative)

Crossbows weren't really required at Agincourt. A long-established culture of longbow use (mandated by the Crown) had more of an effect. You can see the effect today by looking at the window sills of small English churches -- worn to a catenary by yeomen (yew-man, a bow user) who believed sharpening their arrowheads on a church window brought good luck.

Re: ( Score: 2)

At Agincourt, the longbows hampered the heavy knights, but didn't kill them except in rare shots through the visor.

They reported French knights looking like hedgehogs. Armor works.

In any event, this study is quite stupid. They measured how much faster armor tires you out when running, and then concluded from it armor was a hindrance, in contradiction to all history.

Re: ( Score: 2)

The main advantage of the crossbow/musket over the longbow was that it didn't require a lifetime of practice to use. Not penetrating power. So N men with crossbows/muskets do not give you an advantage over N men with longbows, quite the opposite, but it impacts how many men you can field.

A relevant quote that often shows up (with some variation in wording and origin): Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.

We are the knight who say "Ni ( Score: 4, Funny)

ne miles on a treadmill are you effing joking".

Re: ( Score: 2)

The folks who could afford full armor could also afford horses.

And they didn't do a lot of running. They mostly stood around a quarter of a mile behind the fighting watching to see if they should get back on their horses.

The folks who did the fighting, if they wore any armor at all, wore small pieces of armor at critical points.

I call ye olde shenaniganes.

Re: ( Score: 3)

The folks who could afford full armor could also afford horses.

You touch upon a very questionable claim by TFA. It says the inability to run for very long might have influenced battles like Agincourt, but the French (who lost there) had all there knights on horseback. The English knights (who won) were on foot. They still weren't running very much, because they were relying mostly on their longbows and letting the French come to them (who were hindered by mud and stakes in the ground), so to what extend fatigue from running in armour is relevant is highly questionable.

Re:We are the knight who say "Ni ( Score: 4, Insightful)

Have you ever ridden a galloping horse over rough ground? It's hard, and you use a lot of muscles in your legs, buttocks, and abdomen just to stay upright. Add in all the weight from armor and weapons, and it's no wonder that knights who had to move, even if they were riding horses, would be exhausted compared to knights who could stand back and let the enemy come to them.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

It is a known fact that plate armour and leathers were only worn when in hand-to-hand combat, and chainmail was worn to stop arrows or bolts.

That'd be silly. Mail is awful at stopping arrows, but pretty good at deflecting sword blows.

Also, it's awfully inconvenient to change your armour in the middle of a battle.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

the French (who lost there) had all there knights on horseback.

Huh? Most things I've read say the second wave attacked on foot.

Re: ( Score: 2)

I'm probably confusing Agincourt with Crecy, which I'm more familiar with. They're very similar battles, but I guess it makes sense that by the time of Agincourt, the French had picked up some of the English tactics.

Re: ( Score: 2)

"the French (who lost there) had all there knights on horseback."

And what does a french knight do when his horse gets shot by an arrow, or stuck in the mud?

Dads with swords ( Score: 2)

Who knew scientist suffered from too much game of thrones.

Armor on the legs ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Next week ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

SCA Nerd ( Score: 5, Informative)

Disclaimer the SCA does medievalISH combat with rules and equipment for safety it's not authentic medieval fight styles, and there are other groups (like WMA) that focus on things like 15th century German fechtbuchs and who have more authority to speak on authentically historical modes and styles of combat.

That said, the SCA does swordfighting at full speed and often with full power (depending on the area), and there are some strong similarities with historical combat. The sticks used (for safety reasons) are roughly the same weight as the historical swords, and there's a strong social pressure to wear armour that is both save and as authentic as possible. Thus, there's a couple things I can comment on from personal experience. First, metal armour on limbs *noticeably* slows down shots. We accept plastic plates as long as they're covered ("best effort to look good" is the standard), so people will fight with plastic covered in canvas or leather, and there is a well-known tradeoff in the SCA between "looking good" in shiny metal armour and having the best possible speed.

I just finished building a fairly close replica of 14th century coat-of-plates armour. I had been using (poorly disguised) plastic before, and the difference when wearing 25 pounds of overlapping plates is quite noticeable. I look much better, of course, but I also work harder, sweat more, and need to take more breaks. The weight's all on my shoulders, so it's not wearing my legs out, but there's a noticeable weight when I'm moving. I recently got metal gauntlets, and they're noticeable as well the hands move slower when there's a pound or two of metal on them. I hate to reference anime, but you know how Goku wears the heavy arm and leg weights in Dragonball Z? There's some truth to that even the fat SCA fighters have bulkier shoulders and larger arms. (actually wearing weights around all day will just screw up your joints, by the way it's the holding-heavy-things-out-from-your-body that does it)

There's a reason armour was attached where it was in the middle ages suspending legs from a belt takes at least some of the weight off the legs when moving.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Make a school that practices this, just like a dojo that practices karate, and ten years from now analyse the results from those fighters.

There are such schools. and they have been around for longer than ten years. Since these schools have been around in England longer than in the U.S., and are more widely known there, it is probable that one (or more) of them is where they got the "reenactors" for this study.

Re: ( Score: 2)

people's lifestyles back then were most likely healthier than now.

Even if that were true, it still didn't help you if you had an illness or injury, even something that wuold be annoying but trivial nowadays would kill you in an age of no antibiotics, appalling hygiene, negligible awareness of how diseases were transmitted, and do-or-die surgery.


3 Education


As the essential nobility of their era, members of the samurai class were far more than mere warriors. The majority of samurai were very well-educated. At a time when very few Europeans could read, the level of samurai literacy was extremely high. They were also skilled in mathematics.

Bushido dictated that a samurai strives to better himself in a multitude of ways, including those unrelated to combat. This is why the samurai class participated in a number of cultural and artistic endeavors. Poetry, rock gardens, monochrome ink paintings, and the tea ceremony were common aspects of samurai culture. They also studied subjects such as calligraphy, literature, and flower arranging.


1 The Japanese Soldiers Did Not Believe That Their Emperor Was God

Japan is well-known for their kamikaze bomber pilots who performed suicide attacks in their aircraft, thus showing a fanatical loyalty to their cause. For years, most people believed that this insane devotion happened because the Japanese worshiped their emperor as a god.

Although it is an easy way to explain the situation, the truth is much more complicated. Emperor Hirohito was never considered to be a god in the strictest sense, and he certainly wasn&rsquot considered their highest or one true god by any means.

According to Shinto beliefs, he was considered to be descended from the gods and partly divine, but putting this in terms of Western mythology would make him more like a half-human demigod. This means that he received great respect, but it does not mean that people thought he was god.

At the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito renounced his divinity after the victorious Allied forces essentially forced him to do so. In recent years, historical revisionists have claimed that Hirohito never truly meant it and that he never stopped being divine. However, despite this revival movement, no one seems to be worshiping him, especially over other gods. He is highly honored, but that is it.

The myth about the Japanese soldiers staging suicide attacks against the Allied forces was likely a combination of many factors. All people have the capability of being very patriotic and going to great lengths to protect their countries, and many Asian people tend to be much more community-minded than Westerners.

Perhaps the Westerners contrived the explanation because it made more sense than an individual sacrificing his life as just a small part of the machine to win the war. Westerners may be willing to go out in a blaze of glory, but they would want it to be a gigantic spectacle that was very important and got them on the news.


Watch the video: 5 Most Brutal u0026 Intimidating Historical Weapons