All You Need to Know about Chain Mail Armor

While chain mail has been around for centuries and had been used by many ancient cultures from Japan to Rome, medieval chain mail has its own culture and history. If you intend to start collecting chain mail, we have a few facts that you might want to know before you start.

Chain Mail

Construction

In medieval times, blacksmiths forged and linked individual metal rings in tight patterns that varied by country of origin. The blacksmith would sometimes press the ends of the rings together, and sometimes they would weld or rivet them together. The links made shirts lighter and more flexible than plate mail armor, which made them very useful for soldiers on the go.

One common chain mail creation was the hauberk, a short-sleeved mail shirt that fell to mid-thigh length and protected a large portion of the wearer’s body. Shorter shirts were also available, as were other chain mail pieces including socks, hoods, mittens, and collars.

Historical Use

While chain mail armor for sale today is relatively cheap, the blacksmithing process of old was difficult and time-consuming, making it fairly expensive. The materials used to make it also cost quite a bit, so common foot-soldiers didn’t usually get this sort of protection unless they looted it from the enemy. It was very common amongst the knights and nobility for quite some time, though, so much so that the word “mail” became synonymous with “armor.”

Eventually, the construction process got a little quicker and easier, but unfortunately, chain mail armor was being rendered less effective due to advances in other technologies. While chain mail armor is useful when deflecting bladed weapons, its effectiveness against long-range weaponry diminished. At first, wide-tipped arrows and spears found it difficult to get through armor and would leave the soldier only a little scratched. However, these tips shrank until they could get through the chain mail links, which is when knights began to supplement their chain mail with plate armor.

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Interesting Facts about Medieval Leather Armor

If you’re interested in purchasing authentic European style armor, chances are you may have done some research on medieval leather armor already. Leather armor, much like chain mail armor, was designed by blacksmiths for knights and soldiers to use as protection during combat. Leather armor was very popular in the early middle ages, because it was much cheaper to find than other types of armor; it was easier to make than metal ring or plate mail, and many soldiers could make their own repairs of this armor if necessary.

Who Used Leather Armor

Medieval Leather ArmorLeather armor was used by lower classes, but it was also used by nobles who either couldn’t afford more expensive armor or who chose to use leather armor as a base layer. Even as metal armors became more popular, leather armor was still used as the first layer of defense for certain areas of the body. During most of the middle ages this type of armor was the first choice for many soldiers and other individuals who needed protection during battle. Leather armor provided great protection from slashes from an enemy sword or dagger. As time went on, leather was used as an alternative to heavy metal armors when soldiers needed to maintain mobility and quickness on the battlefield.

Types of Leather Armor

Leather was the primary construction tool used for many types of armor. Originally, soldiers wore leather jackets or vests to block blows from enemies during battle. As blacksmithing became more sophisticated, people began to attach metal plates to their base layer of leather to provide additional protection. Leather armor that was left untreated only worked well for a short time. If left untreated, leather armor would often rot.

As a method of protecting the armor, people learned that boiled leather would last much longer. Boiling leather armor in a vat of oil or wax was one method to help the leather mold into certain shapes. Once boiled, the leather would be left alone to harden and dry. This would result in armor that was lighter than other types of metal armor, but was thicker and tougher than untreated leather. Boiled leather could be used to make chest plates, leather gloves, and elbow and knee pads.

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Popular Types of Medieval Helmets

If you’re interested in medieval history and armor, you’ve probably spent some time studying the different types of medieval helmets. If you spend some time online, you’ll be amazed how many types of armor can be purchased online for your personal collection, including helmets. These helmets, whether you look at Greek warrior helmets or knight helmets, are a great addition to any collection. It is helpful to have some context about when and how the various types of armor were used. Here are some of the types of medieval helmets that were used during the medieval period.

Medieval HelmetTypes of Helmets

Medieval helmets were some of the most varied helmets ever made. Helmets, like most types of armour, were traditionally worn by knights, soldiers, body guards, and anyone else who may have the need to protect themselves from violence. They were made with several different materials and came in many different shapes and styles. Helmets were designed with protection in mind, and many of the varieties offered little comfort or visibility. Helmets worn by knights often included visors, and were designed to protect the wearer from blows to the face.

There were also a variety of soldier helmets, typically made of metal, that were designed to protect the wearer from catastrophic blows to the head. These included the sallet, arthurian, and barbuta helmets. As time went on, helmets became more sophisticated, and by the renaissance and enlightenment eras, metal helmets were both functional and practical, allowing the wearer increased visibility and protection at the fraction of the cost. Most commoners did not commonly use metal helmets.

Materials

Most knight and soldier helmets were made of iron or steel and were made of full pieces of sheet metal by a blacksmith. Some of these helmets could be quite expensive, and they were sometimes passed down by families for generations. Other helmets were made out of chain mail or ring mail, types of linked metal pieces that were used to make armour as well. For everyday protection, individuals would use helmets made out of boiled leather or heavy cloth pieces. These leather helmets would sometimes have studded pieces of metal woven into the cloth or fastened to the leather to add extra protection.

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The Uniforms and Weapons of Roman Soldiers

The legions of Rome are legendary and with good reason. Rome raised the first standing army, required their soldiers to work at a steady pace every day of the week, and trained them in more skills than Boy Scouts have badges. Some of the greatest battles come out of the Romans facing off against the barbarian hordes, and while their armor and weapons were important to those battles, many historians recognize that it was the Roman soldiers’ discipline that gave Rome an edge in most conflicts. The Armor Venue cannot help you with the discipline aspect, but we can share with you some amazing facts about Roman armor and uniforms.

Colosseum in RomeRoman Soldier Armor

Few examples of actual Roman armor have survived the ravages of time. Fortunately, history has several detailed descriptions of what the Romans wore into battle. Generally, they had a type of scale mail made from wood, bone, or metal. They also used leather boiled in wax to make it harder.

Roman Soldier Weapons

No Roman soldier costume will be complete without the right kind of weapons. It is important to keep in mind that the Romans were divided into the Legionnaires and the Centurions. They used spears, swords, and sling shots.

The Roman Soldier

While the Roman soldier often carried a pack that weighed 60 pounds in addition to his weapons and armor, chances are that your Roman soldier uniform won’t have to be that comprehensive. You may need to choose a shield and make sure that the armor is time-period appropriate, but you will also want to make sure that your costume is easy to move around in. For those looking for reenactment authenticity, it is important to do more research than can be expressed here. After all, the Romans ruled the known world for a long time and built roads from Great Britain to North Africa. They were never a stagnant nation when it came to advancing their territories.

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The Components of a Medieval Suit of Armor

One historian said that armor made the knights the equivalent of a medieval tank. They could wade through the battlefield dealing death without worrying too much about what was to come. Armor is complicated and full of French names that Americans may find difficult to remember and pronounce. Fortunately, when you need a suit of armor, the Armor Venue has got your back and everything else covered.

The Head

Everyone is familiar with some sort of medieval knight helmet. Depending on the era, there were helmets, mail coifs, and cervellieres. Of course, the three elements could be combined, and helmets came in many styles. Some styles provided full coverage, others allowed for easier breathing but less protection. The style that you might choose will depend on your comfort level and what age you want to represent with your suit of armor.

Components of Suit of ArmorAccessories for the Well-Heeled Knight

Knights carried huge swords because they knew they would have to cleave through armor. They also added medieval shields to their armor to provide an extra layer of protection that could be used directly against an impending blow. These shields were often decorated with the knight’s colors. They also provide a beautiful way to show the knight’s influence.

The Body

The medieval suit of armor was made to cover every part of the knight because even a small wound could result in infection, amputation, and sometimes death. A gorget or aventail may cover the neck and shoulders. A hauberk was made of chain mail and extended down to the knight’s knees. The chest may be covered with a cuirass while the belly could get an extra layer of protection with the plackart. Faulds protected the hips. The arms had their own protections that extended to the gauntlet. The legs were covered with cuisses, greaves and sabatons. All of the components were put together to allow maximum movement while also giving maximum protection.

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8 Tips on Selecting the Right Ancient Armor

8 Tips for Selecting the Right Ancient Armor

When it comes to getting authentic armor for your event or experience, many people will just settle for a run of the mill, off the rack costume that doesn’t even come close to representing the type of armor worn during a specific time period or in a specific fantasy game. A Russian Centurion will look out of place in a castle during the middle ages and a Templar would be anachronistic in ancient Greece. Details will make all the difference when putting together an event or working with a movie or theater production. Those details include having the right armor for the time period that you are representing.

At the Armor Venue, we are dedicated to providing our customers with the armor that they want and deserve. You won’t have to worry if the armor fits the time period because we’ll help guide you through the process of selecting the right ancient armor. Even better, your armor will be sure to fit you well. While metal armor can be uncomfortable and hot, especially when you are looking for authenticity, we will get you the best fit possible given the parameters of the outfit that you choose.

Whether you are looking to wow them at the next Renaissance Faire, want something awesome to rock at the next comic con, or you have something else in mind for your ancient armor, check out our inventory and contact us when you’re ready to find the armor that will fulfill your medieval or ancient cosplay needs.

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Beyond Medieval Leather Armor And Nerds: A Brief LARP History

In today’s world, people have many options of how to entertain themselves.  They can watch movies, read books, play sports, go hiking, and even engage in live action role playing, more commonly referred to as LARP.  Now let’s be honest…when most people think of LARPers, they associate this activity with a group of super nerds dressed in goofy medieval leather armor and other fantasy garb frantically winging latex swords at one another.  While this train of thought is not unfounded, the truth of the matter is that we are all nerds in our own fashion and this is okay.  In fact, the concept of LARP – people assuming roles and characters to play out a given scenario – doesn’t come out of left field.  After all, isn’t this what actors do?  When it comes down to it, actors and LARPers have a lot in common – they are both interactive storytellers.  Sure, one may not wear the elven attire or medieval leather armor on a consistent basis, but both actors and LARPers essentially strive for the same goal of crafting a good story.

In recent years, LARP has seen a huge surge of popularity, but be not fooled.  The invention of LARP goes all the way back to pre-history where games like “cops and robbers”, “cowboys and Indians”, and the like were favorite childhood past times.  Moving forward, history saw a transition from childhood “pretend” to grown adults joining the fun.  This surfaced in historical re-enactments among the ancient Romans, medieval Europeans, Han Chinese, and many other civilizations.  Primarily serving as entertainment at various social gatherings, people would re-create various situations from past historical periods.  Even royalty, such as Queen Elizabeth, were known to bring in re-enactors for their delight.  In the 20th century, these were manifested in theatrical re-enactments.

Medieval leather armor

The bridge between historical re-enactments and modern-day LARP occurred in the 1960s where the Society for Creative Anachronism was founded in Berkeley, California in 1966.  Along with this organization came the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia in 1969, who held their first events at the University of Maryland.  This also may have signified the beginning of LARP medieval leather armor and latex swords, as this group’s main focus was re-creating medieval life and times.  Hints of fantasy were implemented here, but it was not yet full force.  It wasn’t until the 197s with the emergence of “Dungeons and Dragons” and other LARP groups that fantasy really struck a chord.  Once it hit, the wave moved rapidly on a national and international basis.

Not only as LARP given people a community to belong to and a recreational activity to foster creativity, it also has influenced other forms of entertainment.  Among them is improvisation which is essentially a kind of role-playing.  Evidence of this can be traced back to the 16th century Commedia del’arte stock characters that were placed in different scenarios and basically free-styled their way through them.  Modern-day examples of this would be comedy groups such as Second City and the Groundlings.  LARP also aided to the creation of Renaissance faires and other such events where people can come in their Scottish kilts, medieval leather armor, and Renaissance wardrobe and take on a character type for a day.

Indeed, LARP has a legacy that extends far beyond nerds in medieval leather armor with latex swords and at the rate things are going, it doesn’t look like it’s dying off any time soon.

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The Basics Of The Bascinet: One Of The Greats Of Medieval Helmets

For knights of the Middle Ages, head gear was key

To deflect sharp weapons and to make arrows flee.

A blow to an unprotected head was all it took

To end a warrior’s fight without a second look.

Thus, many medieval helmets came and went,

Each with their own style until their time was spent.

The Great Helm, Barbuta, and Norman Nasal –these medieval helmets who could forget?

Still there’s another, which brings us to the topic of today, which is the Bascinet.

 

In the mid-fourteenth century, the bascinet became widespread,

One of the most popular medieval helmets to hit the head.

Emerging from a steel or iron type cap, it featured a more pointed apex at the skull

With downward extensions in the rear and sides to guard the neck, ensuring protection full.

Further enhancement came from a bottom helmet mail curtain called an “aventail”

Which offered valiant protection for the neck, the shoulders, and throat to great avail.

In addition, a visor was often put in place

To maximize security for the exposed face.

The bascinet was not initially worn on its own.

Being worn under or over a mail coif set the tone.

It was also accompanied by a padded arming cap

Making a knight’s head look swollen and unnaturally fat.

These medieval helmets had three common shapes before they reached their peak.

A round skull covering just below the ears was one of which to speak.

A conical apex reaching all the way to the base of the neck was another to mention.

And a tall conical skull with an elegant point, reaching below the ears, got attention.

By mid-fourteenth century, the tall form extended its protection to the neck base

With either a smooth skull or central ridge in front, running from the apex to the face.

From a single metal piece, these medieval helmets were typically raised

Sometimes another metal piece was added, which, which decorated and amazed.

As time passed, bascinets became more than just common head wear.

They became status symbols causing others to stop and stare.

Adorning the skull with an ornate band,

It displayed which rank and class one did stand.

 

The visor also underwent some changes over time.

It began as a triangle piece keeping the nose in line.

With hooks or studs, the nose guard attached to the head gear.

And the piece was padded, making comfort not a fear.

The “klappvisor” was the first piece to cover the whole face.

Made of oval, metal plates, two strong studs held it in place.

It was thus suspended by a single, vertical bar

With breathing holes and eye slits, though vision didn’t go far.

The next advancement was a removable visor,

Which offered convenience and this choice was wiser.

Due to the fact this piece had a protruding nose,

The name “Pig face” was given, as the story goes.

 

The bascinet remained prominent until the mid-fifteenth century where it began its decline.

They were replaced by the armet and sallet which were now the more common medieval helmets to find.

However, a cage-like visored bascinet stuck around for a substantial time more

Being used for foot combat in tournaments until the sixteenth century did soar.

 

Though the glory days of bascinets have come and gone,

The legacy of these medieval helmets lives on.

This head gear can be spotted on knights in media and art

Showcasing their effective design, which was indeed quite smart.

Credit: Lee Pugsley

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Knighthood: What It Took To Get The Knight Armor, Weapons, and Title

Nothing is more defining of the Middle Ages than a knight.  These men in their medieval knight armor, with their noble steeds, inspired many. However, they had to pay their dues to reach this status.  Indeed, knights are to be respected, but the respect definitely grows once you get a glimpse of everything they had to undergo.

Knights were highly regarded in medieval society, similar to the way celebrities are elevated in today’s culture.  While it was possible for anyone to attain knighthood, certain components had to be in place.  It was more than simply having knight armor, proper training, and the best weapons; one also had to have the right connections.  Training and equipping a knight cost a pretty penny and as a result, it was not affordable for lower classes to engage in.  Thus, knights were mainly comprised of men from wealthy families and nobility.  If you were one of the lucky few to be born into a line of knights, you would inherit this honor.  Knightly training began at a very young age.  Boys were taught the code of chivalry and were required to exemplify the utmost respect.  They were also given a wooden sword and shield and could most likely be spotted with at least a few pieces of knight armor.

knight armor pauldrons

The process of becoming a knight was demanding and called for a bit of sacrifice.  One of the biggest sacrifices was being separated from one’s family.  At the age of seven, a boy was sent to the home or castle of a lord where he was given the title of page.  A page was essentially a lord’s personal assistant and performed such services as dressing their master, waiting on tables, and other menial tasks.  A page’s term lasted from age seven to fourteen and they were ranked according to age.  While their responsibilities may not have been the most glamorous, these boys did have some perks.  In addition to room and board, they received an education and training to bring them one step closer to their dream of knighthood.  They had the opportunity to learn such skills as using a lance, fighting with a sword, and mastering the art of riding on horseback.  They also got to experience the exhilaration of tournaments on a regular basis.

After the page phase was complete, the next rite of passage was serving as a squire.  This position gave a young man full immersion into the world of knighthood.  The squire started at age fourteen and held a seven year term until age twenty one.  He was essentially a knight’s right hand man and did everything a knight did, including participation in courtly life, furthering the practice of chivalry and learning heraldry, and accompanying on the battlefield.  His skills of using weaponry, horsemanship, and jousting were also perfected during this period.  He also adjusted to mobility in medieval knight armor.  For those who demonstrated exceptional courage and valor, they could be knighted earlier than the age of twenty one.  And going back to the idea of sacrifice, many squires laid down their lives in battle while standing in the line of fire while protecting their knights.

After serving as a page and squire, the dream of becoming a knight was a reality. This was celebrated in a ceremony of knighthood, in which a man was dubbed officially as a knight.  It was a long and rigorous road to get there, but well worth it for the honor and notoriety that came with it.  Dressed in splendor with medieval knight armor and equipped with powerful weapons, the excitement and adventure for a knight was just beginning.

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Gladiators: The Men Behind The Roman Armor

Crowds flocked from miles around to watch them.  They were quite a spectacle with their mad skills and flashy Roman armor. They gave an empire heroes to believe in and became the pride of the people.  Indeed Roman gladiators were one of the most defining forces of ancient Rome.  More than just men in Roman armor, these guys inspired many as they exemplified honor and bravery by risking their lives. While this is the basic essence of Roman gladiators, here are some interesting tidbits to give you a more complete picture.

For starters, not all gladiators were slaves.  Granted, a decent portion of these men were prisoners or captives of conquests.  These men were bought, sold, and traded.  In addition to the slave class, however, free men also had a desire to hop on the bandwagon, as the prospect of fame and fortune was simply too enticing to resist.  After all, gladiators that had a winning streak in arena matches became household names and statues of them in their Roman armor were likely to spring up.  The free men who joined the gladiator ranks were comprised of all social statuses and included knights, ex-soldiers, civilians, etc.  These men signed contracts with gladiator schools and were thus commissioned as fighters.

12-facts-ancient-roman-gladiators

In terms of slaves who were gladiators, their lives weren’t necessarily easy; but they didn’t have it as bad as one would assume.  Because good health and strength were essential, they were given adequate food and lodging.  They also received training, Roman armor, and weapons. A successful slave fighter could earn his freedom if he survived enough matches.  A typical gladiator career consisted of two to three fights per year for three to five years.  In summary, this meant that a slave would have to make it through six to fifteen fights before he was free.  Unfortunately, most slaves didn’t last this duration due to the dangerous nature of arena combat.

As for the arena matches themselves, it should be stated that rarely was a fight “to the death”.  Sorry to burst your bubble of cinema excitement, but historians show that only one in five or one in ten matches culminated with death.The main goal in a gladiator match was to wound the opponent, not to kill them.  Gladiators were trained accordingly wit this in mind.  Arena matches would often end once a gladiator was severely injured and the unharmed fighter would be declared the winner.  If the men were lucky, a fight could wrap with no injuries inflicted, given that there had been enough excitement and thrills to please the masses.  And on rare occasion, a bout would come to a stalemate if the audience got bored.  Seeing as how a gladiator match was considered a game, there were strict rules to follow and a referee supervised the event.  In addition, combat was typically between two men and while animal fights occurred, this was not the norm.

Gladiators were a sought after commodity in ancient Rome and much value was attributed to the men behind the Roman armor.  They were a loved and cherished people whose legacy has not been forgotten.

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