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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
Joined: 05 Oct 2017

Posts: 76

PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 2:00 am    Post subject: Why wear a skullcap under a mail coif?         Reply with quote

I have wondered why they wore skullcaps under their mail coifs in the 13th century. It seems to me like it would just be a waste of good material since you would have to use more mail rings to accomodate for the skullcap.

And then there is the problem of versatility. If you decided to ditch the skullcap and put a nasal or kettle helmet over your mail coif, then the coif would flop around a bit since it was designed to be used with a skullcap (although you might be able to adjust the coif by tightening its lacing.)

So what advantage would this setup with the coif over the skullcap actually provide? I would really like to hear from people who have actually worn this setup.
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 2:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some more padding..(minimal, I'll admit) Happy Plus..how would you like some oily/greasy metal rings getting caught in your hair and pulling it out ? Ouch ! Sad I suggest you try wearing a coif yourself without an arming cap and see what it feels like. As for the extra rings needed to accommodate an arming cap..well. coifs were never meant to fit tight around one's head..they're always a bit oversized
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 2:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To me it's more comfortable. I never liked using coif under the helmet because I needed more padding under the mail for it not to be uncomfortable. Rings can push into forehead or anywhere along the edge of the helmet quite painfully. If the coif is over the helmet, you don't have such problems. And it's better to have bigger coif than bigger helmet if it goes over the coif.
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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
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Posts: 76

PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 2:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Some more padding..(minimal, I'll admit) Happy Plus..how would you like some oily/greasy metal rings getting caught in your hair and pulling it out ? Ouch ! Sad I suggest you try wearing a coif yourself without an arming cap and see what it feels like. As for the extra rings needed to accommodate an arming cap..well. coifs were never meant to fit tight around one's head..they're always a bit oversized


It seems like we have a misunderstanding here. I was refferring to the simple hemispherical helmet of the 13th century, not an arming cap. Here is what I am talking about:
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Alan E




Location: UK
Joined: 21 Jan 2016

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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 4:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Because mail coifs are good against slicing cuts but less good at protecting against impact. A plate cap underneath will give some minimal protection against an impact blow (that is not strong enough to break your neck). It is simply one option regarding where the cap can be worn and as you say, an open-face helm (with nasal or otherwise) could be worn over the mail coif instead. Either way, great helms were becoming popular to protect the face, but the cap would allow the great helm to be removed (for increased ventilation and vision) whilst keeping some impact protection.

Certainly the coif needs to be slightly larger to accommodate the cap, but if the open helm is worn over the coif instead then this needs to be slightly larger than if worn underneath (i.e. more late metal). You takes your choice on which best suits you. If you change your mind, then a little more padding worn underneath would stop the coif 'flopping' - or indeed pay an armourer to reduce the size of the coif slightly.

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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
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Posts: 76

PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 4:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should have been clearer, I know that a mail coif isn't sufficient protection on its own, and some rigid protection for the head is required. I was just wondering why did some people choose to wear their cervelliers under, rather than over mail.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Less likely to fall off.
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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 4:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Less likely to fall off.

The likelihood of that would be quite small, because they had chinstraps.
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 6:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joonas Pessi wrote:
Ralph Grinly wrote:
Some more padding..(minimal, I'll admit) Happy Plus..how would you like some oily/greasy metal rings getting caught in your hair and pulling it out ? Ouch ! Sad I suggest you try wearing a coif yourself without an arming cap and see what it feels like. As for the extra rings needed to accommodate an arming cap..well. coifs were never meant to fit tight around one's head..they're always a bit oversized


It seems like we have a misunderstanding here. I was refferring to the simple hemispherical helmet of the 13th century, not an arming cap. Here is what I am talking about:

Might be worth noting that that image shows both an arming cap and a metal skullcap over it (as well as a coif with its hood down). Happy

As for why wear the coif over the skullcap, it's just all around more convenient than cap over coif - easier to fit, easier to wear, easier to don and doff the hood, easier to move your head with the hood up, and so on. It might feel more logical to wear the most solid defense as the outermost layer, but in this case it really makes no practical difference of any kind in terms of protection.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings


Last edited by Mikko Kuusirati on Wed 25 Apr, 2018 9:23 am; edited 2 times in total
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David Clark





Joined: 10 Feb 2009

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My guess would be that the tendency to wear the skullcap under the maille is because it would sit more securely under the maille. It would rest directly on padding, rather than metal rings, which are almost slippery when metal is pressed against it.

Also, I reckon the leather suspension liner, if there was one in the skullcap, would be more quickly fatigued if pressed tight against maille rings rather than padding.

And as Alan pointed out: wearing the skullcap under the maille means it is the same size even if the wearer opts out of wearing the maille coif.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 496

PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joonas Pessi wrote:
Craig Peters wrote:
Less likely to fall off.

The likelihood of that would be quite small, because they had chinstraps.

An clumsily fitted chin strap and tightened chin strap can restrict breathing and speech because the roughness of the strap and pressure on the chin or throat. Having the skull cap under the coif and over the arming cap eliminates this problem because the tight fit and weight of mail is what is holding this on, not a straps. I've never worn a mail coif and skullcap, but I've worn allot of different chinstraps and a improperly tightened or placed chin strap can really mess up your ability to breath and speak clearly.


Last edited by Philip Dyer on Wed 25 Apr, 2018 2:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Steve Fabert





Joined: 03 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Apr, 2018 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps it was the simple result of learning from experience. Instead of having a theory about what might be better, try out the alternatives one after another & experience the pros & cons of each method. Then choose the option that works best.
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Nicky G




Location: singapore
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Apr, 2018 11:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If u were in the army or cycle

Would you wear your helmet under your raincoat or on top of the raincoat?

Most of the time, its always the former. Not only is it more comfortable, tossing back the hood when it is not required dosnt require fumbling with the straps

Same logic probably applies to the mail coif
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Victor R.




Location: Spring, Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2018 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most logical; most efficient; most effective.

As for the argument of it being a "waste of material" - as already stated, coifs were made big to drape and to move. It is likely no extra rings were necessary to accommodate a well-fitting cervelliere. However, even if a few more were needed, which was more difficult, time consuming and expensive to produce - mild steel wire for rings or high carbon, hardenable steel plate for a helmet? Making a helmet large enough to fit over the coif would require significantly more of a more expensive material to accommodate fitting over the coif than the alternative. There's just no reasonable scenario where the cervelliere over the coif makes any sense.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2018 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks y'all...thanks a lot. Now I have to get a skullcap to wear with my mail coif and great helm. Laughing Out Loud ....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Joonas Pessi




Location: Finland
Joined: 05 Oct 2017

Posts: 76

PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2018 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all the replies Big Grin And yes the coif over the cervelliere makes quite a bit of sense, and I think that the points that have been made here are some probable reasons why they did it.

Although this configuration wasn't universal, and some people seem to have preffered their coifs under their cervelliere, but it seems to have been in the minority.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2018 9:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If the maille coif is under the skull cap, might as well wear a bigger more protective helm like a nasal helm, a kettle hat or a barrel helm.

With the barrel helms the skull cap was often still used under the maille, and replaced later by the basinet for use under a great helm, but over the coif, and then evolving into the basinet with visors as the primary defense with an aventaille attached to the bottom rim of the basinet.

A skull cap is also compact and easy to wear either way, or by itself.

I have a reproduction coif that fits just a well under or over the skull cap, but if the skull cap is worn over the mail one need some sort of padding between the rings and one's skull for comfort, but this is also warmer.

When the coif is worn over the skull cap I don't need any extra padding in addition to any padding or suspension inside the skull cap.

But most of the previous posts have covered most of the points I would have made.

We are sort of guessing, but based on logic and some practical experience wearing reproduction armour by some of us.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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