Some Thoughts on Armor Selection

This morning while sipping coffee and waiting on a work meeting, I got to thinking about what goes into the armor we choose to use.

17th century armor in front of a wall of 17th century cuirasses at the Tower of London. (Photo by myself.)

There are three main factors in choosing armor. I list them here in descending order of importance but the first two are usually reversed for practical influence – you wear the best you can get your grubby hands on.

  1. Protection: Does it do its job? The first factor is to make sure it works. Whether you’re a Spartan who only needs a shield, a Viking with a shield, helm, and bernie, or a modern soldier on the 21st century battlefield with a flak vest and trauma plate, this applies. It also includes the build and materials quality and proper fit.
  2. Availability: Can you get your hands on it? This includes literal availability, distance, time, and price. It also includes whether or not you even know such a thing exists. Sometimes you have a limited selection to choose from. This is common among many new armored fighters. They don’t have the network to know which armorers will give decent armor prices or haven’t been around long enough to get custom work made. Even some seasoned fighters will keep their older gear because they have it in hand and are not interested in changing.
  3. Style: As much as we like to think otherwise, we are influenced by the current styles. You can see this among the Burgundian armies in the late middle ages, the similarities in armor among national teams at Battle of the Nations or, actually enforced in modern military units. For many of us we also have certain personal styles we like. Some love the look of Viking armor, especially in the SCA. Among HEMA Harnisfechten people, you’ll see more mid to late 15th century outfits. In bohurt you see more late 14th century styles. This latter is also partly an availability thing, as these styles provide the most protection for the least amount of money and work.

If you’re new to this STOP and read this. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING till you’ve been training and talking to other fighters in whatever style you are doing. You don’t need to make any choices yet. Armor is expensive and your safety is of paramount importance. (See #1 and #1 above). But don’t take my word for it without verifying. Here is another great resource. Now is the time to start your research. That begins with asking questions of the people you train with.

More experienced fighters might be looking at upgrading their style. Maybe this is how you want to look….

16th c. German Armor from the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. (Photo by me.)

After you’ve been a part of your community for a while, you’ll have a better grasp of which armorers would be capable of what you want and what your budget is. You’ll hopefully learn to save every penny if you want something like this, but many see armor as both safety gear and also as an investment. Armor has a relatively high ability to retain value over time when compared to other sports gear. It’s worth taking your time and giving thought to what you want.

Armor that works well, that you have, and that looks good – This is very satisfying. Well, it is for me at least.