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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > What to expect of a 30 layers jack? Reply to topic
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2019 12:33 pm    Post subject: What to expect of a 30 layers jack?         Reply with quote

Has anyone owned one or owns it now? I am interested in practicalities of it, moveability, weight, best patterns, anything...
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2019 7:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I never saw a picture of one, so I'm just as interested as you. I know a guy who does HEMA and tried some armor, he said those armors are hot sultry as hell.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2019 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't mind heat. I wonder if you need cutouts at the inside of elbows to move arm properly.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2019 6:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, does anyone has experience with Matuls or Medieval Market jacks?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2019 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
I don't mind heat. I wonder if you need cutouts at the inside of elbows to move arm properly.

The only section that should have 30 layers is the chest. The arms and abdomen will be significantly thinner to allow flexibility.

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Nov, 2019 4:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Luka Borscak wrote:
I don't mind heat. I wonder if you need cutouts at the inside of elbows to move arm properly.

The only section that should have 30 layers is the chest. The arms and abdomen will be significantly thinner to allow flexibility.


Ordinannces of King Louis XI which you once posted in another thread say that collar and arms should be of equal strength as the body... I would like to recreate that kind of jack, but I wanted some practical advices if someone tried such a thing.

Ordinances of Louis XI of France (1461-1483)
And first they must have for the said Jacks, 30, or at least 25 folds of cloth and a stag's skin; those of 30, with the stag's skin, being the best cloth that has been worn and rendered flexible, is best for this purpose, and these Jacks should be made in four quarters. The sleeves should be as strong as the body, with the exception of the leather, and the arm-hole of the sleeve must be large, which arm-hole should be placed near the collar, not on the bone of the shoulder, that it may be broad under the armpit and full under the arm, sufficiently ample and large on the sides below. The collar should be like the rest of the Jack, but not too high behind, to allow room for the sallet. This Jack should be laced in front, and under the opening must be a hanging piece [porte piece] of the same strength as the Jack itself. Thus the Jack will be secure and easy, provided that there be a doublet [pourpoint] without sleeves or collar, of two folds of cloth, that shall be only four fingers broad on the shoulder; to which doublet shall be attached the chausess. Thus shall the wearer float, as it were, within his jack and be at his ease; for never have been seen half a dozen men killed by stabs or arrow wounds in such Jacks, particularly if they be troops accustomed to fighting.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Nov, 2019 7:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Try making one and find out for yourself. Sleeves like that would be useful for jousting because they lock the arms into a rigid position but they are useless for anything else.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Nov, 2019 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The patter comes from a legit historical source. You think they weren't actually made that way?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Nov, 2019 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
The patter comes from a legit historical source. You think they weren't actually made that way?

If you make sleeves the same as a jack that is rigid enough to let you "float inside", you won't be able to move your arms. Try it and see for yourself. Either the passage is specifically describing armour intended for jousting or the text is being misinterpreted. You can't use translations for this kind of work. You need to use the original language.

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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Nov, 2019 6:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning has the original text, as well as his own translation, available on his site and it does indeed say that the sleeves should be made as strongly as the rest of the jack, except without the deer skin.

However, he also has a link to an article on the household accounts of Sir John Howard, which includes a description of a jack made in a similar manner, but with much thinner sleeves. As the French ordonnace refers to an alternate construction of the jack consisting of 31 deer skins, it's probably the least accurate of the two and has scribal errors.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Nov, 2019 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does anyone have a picture of a heavy layered gambeson? Or its appearance is the same of a normal infantry jacque?
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Kristjan Runarsson





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PostPosted: Fri 29 Nov, 2019 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Does anyone have a picture of a heavy layered gambeson? Or its appearance is the same of a normal infantry jacque?


The words gambeson and aketon, layered and padded, have become so completely confused by modern re-enactors that I prefer not to use them at all. Instead I like to talk about layered jacks and padded jacks. As far as I know there is no surviving example of a layered jack. There are a few examples of early to mid 15th century padded jacks from Germany. The one that has been best described is one of the ones from Lübeck:

https://www.hammaborg.de/en/bilder_videos/museen/steppwams_luebeck/index.php

It consisted of two layers of coarse linen on the outside one layer of finer linen on the inside and sandwiched between them was raw wool fleece. The outer fabric layers were sewn together until the wool fleece sandwiched between them had been compacted to where it was only about 10-12 mm thick. As far as I know this was by far the most common form of fabric armour into the 15th century. Padded jacks were significantly cheaper than layered jacks since the material costs were far lower. For a 30 layer jack you need an obscene amount of fabric, that fabric needed to be of good quality all the way through. You could not get away with outer layers of good tough fabric and rotten old rags and inferior fabric in between. In France makers of jacks were required to attach samples of the material used in the jack (a sample from all layers IIRC) to the garment so the customer would know they'd not been cheated and could judge the quality of the jack. Needless to say there were unpleasant legal consequences for people who tried to cheat. Contrary to popular opinion fabric armour, particularly layered jacks, were not a dirt cheap product in the Middle Ages. This simple sleeveless 28 layer jack reconstruction consumed some 40 yards of fabric:

https://costumegirl.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/the-making-of-a-medieval-gambeson/

That is enough linen to sew clothes for a couple of large families. Forty yards of fabric are expensive enough in my neck of the woods even in this modern day and age when we machine weave the stuff that it represents a considerable investment to make a 30 layer jack. Imagine what the cost would be at a time when fabric was hand woven.

Finally, this YouTuber conducted some flawed (only 15 layer jack, and the padding is not compacted wool fleece), but still interesting tests on padded and layered jacks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uP4wLMmp-8U

The general consensus (in that experiment at least) seems to be that padded and layered jacks are easily penetrated by stabbing and they provide some protection against slashes and cuts. The only catastrophic failure of the layered jack was to a series of pretty optimal hits from one razor sharp sword. Note how he comments that the thought his other swords were sharp until he went to work on these fabric armour samples. However, on a battlefield with 10.000 people on it, how likely are you to run into they guy with the sword that literally has a razor edge? I'm guessing about 97% of the swords on that field would be very sharp but few of them would be literally as sharp as the blade of your grandfather's shaving knife.



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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Nov, 2019 7:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

It consisted of two layers of coarse linen on the outside one layer of finer linen on the inside and sandwiched between them was raw wool fleece. The outer fabric layers were sewn together until the wool fleece sandwiched between them had been compacted to where it was only about 10-12 mm thick. As far as I know this was by far the most common form of fabric armour into the 15th century. Padded jacks were significantly cheaper than layered jacks since the material costs were far lower. For a 30 layer jack you need an obscene amount of fabric, that fabric needed to be of good quality all the way through. You could not get away with outer layers of good tough fabric and rotten old rags and inferior fabric in between. In France makers of jacks were required to attach samples of the material used in the jack (a sample from all layers IIRC) to the garment so the customer would know they'd not been cheated and could judge the quality of the jack. Needless to say there were unpleasant legal consequences for people who tried to cheat. Contrary to popular opinion fabric armour, particularly layered jacks, were not a dirt cheap product in the Middle Ages.


While I'm well and truly on board with the argument that fabric armour was not "cheap", it is easy to overstate the expense of them. For one thing, they were very often made from old linen - not in contravention of guild regulations, but within these regulations.

From the Paris Armourers’ Rule of 1296:

Quote:
Firstly, that nobody shall make coat nor gambeson of linen such that the facing and lining are not of new linen, and within of cotton and of folds of linens; and likewise, that if it should have scraps within, that for their oath they shall not put scraps of linen (escroes de tèle) of which the ell did not cost 8 d. or more.


8d, presumably of Paris, is about 2d Stirling, which is the price of the cheapest grade of new cloth in England.

While the Pourpointer's Rule of 1323 might suggest that the filler should be new, it's important to consider that the weight is listed as "under 2 pounds", or appropriate only for an arming garment:

Quote:
6th item, that no-one shall be so bold as to make old cotton between buckram and new linen underneath of two pounds, on pain of seven sous parisis, that is to say five sous to the king and two sous to the guards of the aforesaid mastery.


Similarly, the Armourer's Rule of 1311 might suggest that the internals should be new, but when compared with the 1296 Rule and the Pourpointer's Rule of 1323 it becomes clear that the "lining" is simply the side facing the body, rather than the internal layers:

Quote:
4th item, that no-one shall make a thick (espesse “thick? dense? layered?”) quilted coat, of the amount of six pounds in weight, such that the facing and the lining are not new, and if the facing or the lining is old, that it shall be forfeited … and burned.


The 1322 regulations for the London Armourer's Company tell the same story:

Quote:
It is was ordeyned for ye comon proffyt and assented that from henceforth all Armor made in ye Cytie to sell be good and convenable after ye forme that henceforth That is to saie that an Akton and Gambezon covered with sendall or of cloth of Silke be stuffed with new clothe of cotten and of cadar and of oldn sendal and not otherwise. And that ye wyite acketonnes be stuffed of old lynnen and of cottone and of new clothe wth in and wth out.


Here there are two distinct forms of "aketon", one of which was the premium version, using new cotton fabric/new cotton or tow as stuffing, or old silk cloth, while the other was the cheaper version made from old linen and cotton fabric. The Chronicon Colmariense has a similar take:

Quote:
Among which (multitude of soldiers lead by Adolph, King of the Romans) those who had iron helmets on their heads and a gambeson (ie. a tunic thickened with linen and tow, or sewn together from old cloths) and above that an iron shirt (ie. a garment woven together from iron rings), through both of which no arrow from a bow can harm a man, were considered armed men. And a hundred of these armed men hardly feared a thousand unarmed.


Finally, Louis XI's ordinances, saying that "used and moderately worn (déliées) linens are the best", suggests that worn linens were considered particularly good for the main protective part of textile armour.

Apart from these written records, the Rothwell Jack - probably from the 16th century as per Richard Knowles, but possibly from the 14th according to Ralph Moffat - is made from 11 layers of linen, some of which were pieced together as if from offcuts or old linen, on the front, with carded wool between the layers of linen.
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Kristjan Runarsson





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Jonathan Dean"]
Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

While I'm well and truly on board with the argument that fabric armour was not "cheap", it is easy to overstate the expense of them. For one thing, they were very often made from old linen - not in contravention of guild regulations, but within these regulations.


My point was more the fact that making cloth was an extremely labour intensive task but re-enactors often talk as if the principles of economics were somehow suspended in the Middle Ages. However, anybody who has taken the time to dig through the paperwork generated by Medieval warfare knows that logistical and economic restraints heavily affected the procurement decisions of Medieval armies. There was an experiment done in Denmark where they tried to create a 10th century linen tunic starting with a bag full of linen seed. So they grew the linen, processed it into fibre, spun it into thread, wove it into cloth and then tailored and sewed it into a tunic all while keeping a detailed record of the man-hours invested in making the tunic from seed to garment. What they found was that something like 10% of the effort was in the fibre processing, another 15% in the weaving and sewing. The rest of the manual labour, i.e. the overwhelming majority of it, was in the spinning which had to be done by hand. What that means is that making a 30 layer jack can be as, or close to as, labour intensive as making a mail shirt. The whole and entire amount of labour poured into making that cloth from the seed onward counts and is translated into the final price of the cloth and the price of the jack. Nobody in that logistics chain is operating at a loss. Even used cloth was considered valuable if it was in a good enough condition to be used in a layered jack. Garbage has a way of becoming a valuable traded commodity the instant somebody finds a use for it. However, for a Lübeck style padded jack you need something like 1/5th to 1/6th of the cloth that goes into the 30 layer jack, two outer layers, one inner layer of cloth. The stuffing in-between is unprocessed wool fibre meaning that you get to skip 40-7=32 yards worth of growing linen/cotton, processing it into fibre, spinning fibre into thread and weaving cloth. The decision whether to equip your men with 30 layer jacks then boils down to whether it is cost effective to sink 5 times the money into equipping a guy with a 30 layer jack if a padded jack can do more or less the same job. The 30 layer jacks would certainly have to be significantly better than a padded jack for that to make financial sense. Now, I'm not saying a padded jack will do the same job as a 30 layered jack, but that remains to be tested properly with properly reconstructed replicas but it is a valid question. I am betting the 30 layer jack will give better results than the padded jack but science is not about betting, guessing or taking things on faith Big Grin it is about experiments and data. The big advantage of the 30 layer jack over a mail shirt (this is me hypothesising again) is mainly that the 30 layer jack is lighter and you can grow the material to make it on your land, no need to import iron. On top of that it does not require the same specialised knowledge to make as a mail shirt. You can outsource 30 layer jack (or padded jack) making to a bunch of housewives and female servants. For jacks of plate you have to throw in a few country blacksmiths to make 5+5 cm plates with a central hole. The 30 layer jack (or padded jack, or jack of plates) is a good choice if you are a primarily agricultural economy like 15th century France. Of course this is not a bad thing, you want to be self sufficient and not beholden to other countries to make your military equipment. By contrast Germany and Italy at the same time were rapidly setting up proto-industrial infrastructure, water powered smelters and water powered forges that could make iron/steel, forge it into large plates and shape them into breastplates in a fraction of the time it previously took to pound out a breastplate by hand which is why in Italy and Germany during the latter half of the 15th century you begin to see peasants and lower class burghers running around in relatively cheap but effective breastplates.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 3:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent post. It needed to be said. Even old cloth was not cheap. There was a reason why the average person only owned 2 or 3 sets of clothing. Steel breastplates, not cloth jacks, were the cheapest form of armour by the end of the middle ages. It was only worn by those who couldn't afford anything better such as a jack or mail. We have texts specifically telling us this.

Small nitpicks:

A padded jack made from 30 layers would not have been worn over mail; it was standalone armour. The lighter 10-15 layered jacks were likely worn over mail.

There would not be many blacksmiths or washerwomen making armour. Armour-making was a highly regulated industry and strictly controlled by the guilds.

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Kristjan Runarsson





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Excellent post. It needed to be said. There was a reason why the average person only owned 2 or 3 sets of clothing. Apadded jack made from 30 layers would not have been worn over mail. It was standalone armour. The 10-15 layered jacks were worn over mail.


Yeah, but I meant that bit about blacksmiths and housewives more as an example of the skill level required rather than as any kind of statement about the workings of the medieval labour market. My point was that it takes a considerably more sophisticated industrial base and a large number of really skilled workers to mass produce munitions grade breastplates in large quantities than it does to make large quantities of jacks of plate. A society that can make breastplates can also make jacks of plate, a society that can only make jacks of plate in quantity cannot mass produce breastplates. It's kind of like why the Union in the US civil war could make cartridge breech loaders and rifled steel cannon but the Confederacy struggled to make rifled muzzle loaded long arms and bronze smoothbores.

That aside, I think a 30 layer jack could be an approximate equivalent for a mail shirt. For whatever reason (I have not a shred of data to back this up) I would pick a brigantine over a 30 layer jack. For the most part, and from what I have observed so far from looking at effigies and period art:

A) Full plate: Only doublets un-padded or lightly padded at best were worn underneath. They would sometimes wrap fabric ribbons around vulnerable places like knee, elbow or wrist joints (this was recommended in an English text whose name I unfortunately cannot remember). The reason for this is that even if you wear plate protection in these places, if somebody whacks you on the wrist for example, it is bloody painful and may even break something so you want a bit of padding in places where plate is in direct contact with bone.

B) The 30 layer jacks would probably have been a pretty good stand alone armour. I don't know about the 15 layer variant but judging from that YouTuber's test 15 layers was better than nothing at all. I have never tired wearing a 15 layer jack over mail and I have never seen any references to it but then I'm mainly into 15th and 16th century kit and it may have been done in earlier centuries.

C) When wearing mail it was often, but by no means always, worn in combination with a padded jack. The padded jack was either worn on top of the mail or underneath it. By the 15th century the padded jack (Lübeck style) often only covered the torso and was sleeve-less. Exceptions are the Scandinavians, Irish and Highland and Isle Scots who extensively wore padded jacks with full length sleeves deep into the 16th century.

D) By far the most common and cheap fabric armour of the period would have been the padded jack (i.e. no more than 5 outer layers of cloth, wool or cotton fibre padding and an inner layer of finer less crude cloth. Common foot soldiers of the late 15th and 16th centuries in Scandinavia and baltic coast Germany sometimes seem to have worn a padded sleeveless jack, similar to the Lübeck example but sometimes sleeveless under a munitions grade breastplate with no back. Often the faulds were deleted from these plates due to the fact they spent a lot of time on ships and in boats, it being faster to move around in these places by sea than by land. I suspect (pending conclusive testing) that the padded jack as a stand alone armour was a case better than nothing but it would have been good protection against cuts since I suspect that while most medieval swords were sharp few would have been literally shaving knife sharp.

All of this is subject to future revision.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We have primary sources telling us that breastplates were the least preferable out of all the available armour types and only worn by those who couldn't afford anything better such as mail or a jack. This one has already been posted here many times already.

Giovanni Michiel was a Venetian Ambassador to Queen Mary and King Philip. This comes from his "Report of England", written to the Venetian Senate on the 13th May, 1557. He is describing what regular English fighters wore to battle.

"... and for the body they either use some sort of breastplate (qualche petto di corsaletto) which guards the forepart, although indifferently, or else more willingly (especially those who have the means) some jack (giaco) or shirt of mail (camicia di maglia); but what they usually wear are certain padded canvas jupons (giubboni di canevaccio imbottiti), each of which is double high, two fingers or more in thickness (doppi alti due dita); and these doublets are considered the most secure defence against the shock of arrows. Upon their arms they place strips of mail (liste di maglia), put lengthways, and nothing else."

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Kristjan Runarsson





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
We have primary sources telling us that breastplates were the least preferable out of all the available armour types and only worn by those who couldn't afford anything better such as mail or a jack. This one has already been posted here many times already.

Giovanni Michiel was a Venetian Ambassador to Queen Mary and King Philip. This comes from his "Report of England", written to the Venetian Senate on the 13th May, 1557. He is describing what regular English fighters wore to battle.

"... and for the body they either use some sort of breastplate (qualche petto di corsaletto) which guards the forepart, although indifferently, or else more willingly (especially those who have the means) some jack (giaco) or shirt of mail (camicia di maglia); but what they usually wear are certain padded canvas jupons (giubboni di canevaccio imbottiti), each of which is double high, two fingers or more in thickness (doppi alti due dita); and these doublets are considered the most secure defence against the shock of arrows. Upon their arms they place strips of mail (liste di maglia), put lengthways, and nothing else."


That is only a description of what somebody was using. It does not say jacks are better than breastplates in general, only that padding helps reduce the shock of arrows which is very true, padded jacks will reduce the shock of practically any kind of attack. Quite frankly if somebody was coming at me with a spear, bill or halberd intending to run me through, I'd pick a breastplate backed by a padded jack before I would ever pick a padded jack, layered jack, mail shirt or any combination there of. What you want to wear depends on the nature of the threat that you face. If all you have to worry about are arrows and heavily padded jacks are a good arrow defence, and you are an English archer who needs to be able to flex his body, then that is what you will wear since you are a ranged attacker and won't be participating in much melée fighting. Melée fights is what heavy infantry and cavalry are for. However, the moment somebody comes for you with a halberd you are in a world of shit since that padded jack will do somewhere between little to nothing to stop that steel spike.

P.S. thanks for that quote, padded jack only and mail sleeves is a combo I had not observed yet although I found some illustrations of men combining mail shirts with a full light plate arm harness. Another one of those esoteric combinations.


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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

He specifically tells us that breastplates were only indifferently worn and those who could afford it preferred jacks or jupons or mail. Munitions armour is extremely uncomfortable. It isn't custom-made and tailored to fit the wearer. Anyone who wore it would get rid of it as soon as he had the means to get something better. Munitions breastplates were not backed by a jack. Anyone who was reduced to wearing a munitions breastplate could not afford a padded jack. Munitions plate only had a lightly padded liner. More expensive plate was worn over a properly-fitted arming doublet but the less well-off did not have this option.
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Kristjan Runarsson





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
He specifically tells us that breastplates were only indifferently worn and those who could afford it preferred jacks or jupons or mail.


Now I'm confused. Are you saying that breastplates were only worn by the poorest soldiers because they were cheaper than padded jacks and mail who only the richest soldiers could afford? Just pause and think about that for a minute.

To me that sounds more like he is saying that they wore breastplates but they weren't particularly popular i.e.

indifferently: without interest or concern; not caring; apathetic.

More popular choices were jacks and mail shirts if you could afford them and I think most people would be able to afford a simple jack. I do not read that quote as saying that people who could afford a mere dirt cheap breastplate yearned for the expensive luxury armour that was a padded jack.
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