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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Feb, 2020 12:27 pm    Post subject: Differentiating textiile armors Aketon, Jupon, Gambeson         Reply with quote

I wonder if someone here has a better grip on this subject than I and could help clarify this class of armor. I'm hoping to figure out appropriate terminology for different types of textile armor that we have sufficiently well documented so as to be sure they existed.

In the Classical era we have the linothorax for which we have some evidence in Hellenistic armies. I've also seen the term 'subarmalis' brought up before in a Roman context though I don't know if that is a modern invention or not. Starting in the Carolingian era we start to see armor coming from the European textile industry, made of linen and other textiles, sometimes padded with felt, horse hair or animal fur.

We see many names mostly of french origin such as jupon, aketon, and gambeson. Later pourpoint.

We see different purposes such as:

Textile armor, stand alone (aketon? the buff coat?)
Textile armor, worn under metal armor (pourpoint? gambeson?)
Textile armor, worn over metal armor (jupon? tabard?) in some cases perhaps in part to help protect the armor itself
Textile armor, incorporated with metal armor (jack of plates, brigandine, the Arab Jazerrant)

Then there are the different materials. Linen, quilted or not, seems to be most common in Europe. Later we see the Arabs using silk and I'm sure this was copied in some places in Europe too. I've seen mention of fustian and cotton.

There is also mention of such modifications as covering textile armor with pitch for water proofing, and the (in)famous mention of reinder hide armor which may actually also be some form of waterproofing or weatherproofing over more prosaic textile armor of some kind.

There is coverage, ranging from a vest, to a sleeveless tabard or apron, to a jacket, to a long sleeved coat

And thickness, from something quite light made of 3 or 4 layers of linen, to the famous 30 layer jacks suitable as stand alone armor, but perhaps rather heavy and bulky.

Would anyone here care to take a stab at breaking down the different types and their use, and / or sketching out a timeline and a correct use of terms?

J

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Feb, 2020 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no universally accepted terminology. We can't rely on terms of the past because they were used arbitrarily and interchangeably.

Personally I use "aketon" to describe earlier arming garments (worn when mail was the dominant armour).
I use "arming doublet" to refer to describe later arming garments (worn when plate was the dominant armour).
I use "gambeson" to refer to long standalone textile armours.
I use "padded jack" to describe short standalone textile armours.

But they are arbitrary determinations. It doesn't really matter what terms we use so long as everyone understands the meaning of those terms.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Feb, 2020 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, that is helpful. I agree it's impossible to nail down a fixed terminology I'd just like to move in the general direction of something workable that is as much as possible in sync with historical terminology.

Would you agree that textile armor worn in the era of plate armor seems to be very generally speaking a bit thinner than earlier?

What about textile armor worn over metal armor as we seem to see a lot in the transitional periods, 13th-14th C

Do you have any insight into materials / textiles used other than linen?

Do you have an opinion on Classical era textile armors? How expensive was linen in the various eras of the Roman Empire, in Hellenistic times, or in Classical Greece?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Feb, 2020 5:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't underpadding was ever very thick, even for mail. Certainly no thicker than a winter tunic. It was designed to stop chafing and improve the fit, not to give additional protection. If you want extra protection, you wear the padding on the outside, not the inside.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2020 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if I got the etymology right but I heard the Greek βαμβάκιον or 'bambákion' meaning cotton is the root for two of them.

Aketon being something of a transliteration whereas gambeson is from the old French wambais, Medieval Latin wambesio and/or bombacium which also means cotton.

I wouldn't be surprised if Aketon was in common usage prior to Gambeson but I would like to hear what others have found.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2020 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You might also note for clarity that some of these armours were made of, of partly made of leather. Buff coats were leather, gambesons also often had outer and sometimes inner layers of leather (more for protection against environment than weapons). Deer skin appears to have been a popular choice.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2020 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Pieter, very interesting. By coincidence, the Arabic word for cotton is Al Qatn. Perhaps derived from Latin or Greek?

Good point Anthony, I did briefly mention the use of reindeer hide as (probably) weather covering, and also the use of pitch. Buff coats are a particular type of animal hide right?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2020 1:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Buff coats were generally made from elk hide. They don't seem to have been intended to be used as armour but could stop a sword cut just like any winter clothing could. They replaced the earlier cotton and linen garments because they were not susceptible to powder burns. Wool started to be used around the same time as buff leather and seems to have been even more popular.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Feb, 2020 12:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think what buff coats were made from varied. Elk was certainly used in Sweden but buffalo and cow leather were used elsewhere. As Dan says, they evolved from leather clothing rather than armour but were certainly worn as armour by the 17th century. On their effectiveness, I can't speak, but one or two have dents from musket or pistol ball. There is a Dutch coat in the Kelvingrove collection where one of the thigh panels has a deep dent, leading to the suggestion that the hit would have broken the thigh of the man wearing it.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Feb, 2020 3:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just because clothes can incidentally stop sword cuts doesn't make them armour. The breastplate over the top was the armour.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Feb, 2020 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Just because clothes can incidentally stop sword cuts doesn't make them armour. The breastplate over the top was the armour.


I disagree. A harquebus armour consisted of a breast and back, helmet, armguard and buff coat.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Feb, 2020 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's obvious that some of these textile (and / or animal hide) garments were armor, and some were partly armor, and some were just clothes worn with armor. Some were combined with metal (and animal hide) and some weren't. Some were possibly stiffened in some way and some (most) were not.

The dividing line where one begins and the other ends can be tricky to define, that is in part what I'm hoping to explore here along with terminology.

I had also understood that 'buff coat' was made of buffalo leather, though it makes sense that many different types of animal hide were used. "Leather" lamellar in Central Asia was also made of some kind of buffalo hide.

J

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Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Sat 15 Feb, 2020 9:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Feb, 2020 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the leather used depended a lot on what was economically available. England, for example, didn't have either a buffalo or elk leather industry so would have needed to import these but had bovine and deer leather in good supply.

I've found this article contains useful information on the evolution, use and fashions of buff coats. Solidly referenced too.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Feb, 2020 12:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Just because clothes can incidentally stop sword cuts doesn't make them armour. The breastplate over the top was the armour.


I disagree. A harquebus armour consisted of a breast and back, helmet, armguard and buff coat.

Or wool. A case can be made that wool coats were more popular than buff ones. A buff coat cost more than the steel armour. If the buff coat was armour, you have to concede that a wool coat is also armour.

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Feb, 2020 4:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Just because clothes can incidentally stop sword cuts doesn't make them armour. The breastplate over the top was the armour.


I disagree. A harquebus armour consisted of a breast and back, helmet, armguard and buff coat.

Or wool. A case can be made that wool coats were more popular than buff ones. A buff coat cost more than the steel armour. If the buff coat was armour, you have to concede that a wool coat is also armour.


I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Woollen coats may have been more popular than buff coats, but how would that stop buff coats being armour? The usual understanding of buff coats in discussions of 17th century warfare is that they are a form of armour. They replace half armours, which had tassets , with a breast and back plus a garment with leather skirts, offering some protection but being more convenient to wear. I don't claim to be an expert on 17th century armour but this is the common narrative - see, for example, the Keith Dowen article referenced previously.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Feb, 2020 5:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Just because clothes can incidentally stop sword cuts doesn't make them armour. The breastplate over the top was the armour.


I disagree. A harquebus armour consisted of a breast and back, helmet, armguard and buff coat.

Or wool. A case can be made that wool coats were more popular than buff ones. A buff coat cost more than the steel armour. If the buff coat was armour, you have to concede that a wool coat is also armour.


I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Woollen coats may have been more popular than buff coats, but how would that stop buff coats being armour? The usual understanding of buff coats in discussions of 17th century warfare is that they are a form of armour. They replace half armours, which had tassets , with a breast and back plus a garment with leather skirts, offering some protection but being more convenient to wear. I don't claim to be an expert on 17th century armour but this is the common narrative - see, for example, the Keith Dowen article referenced previously.


These people are historians, not hoplologists. Why would you ask someone about armour if they don't know anything about armour? You wouldn't ask a historian to perform brain surgery or repair your car.

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Feb, 2020 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
These people are historians, not hoplologists. Why would you ask someone about armour if they don't know anything about armour? You wouldn't ask a historian to perform brain surgery or repair your car.


That's a very odd statement, Dan. Historians often have more knowledge of a period than an arms and armour collector, especially when it is their academic living. You may believe that buff coats are not armour if you wish but let's not condemn whole professions out of hand.

Keith Dowen, incidentally, is Assistant Curator of Armour at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and specialises in 17th century armour. I think, therefore, his opinion is worthy of consideration.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Feb, 2020 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Woollen coats may have been more popular than buff coats, but how would that stop buff coats being armour?


I think Dan's argument here (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is the fact that a couple of the surviving "buff coats" in museums have been recently examined and found not to be made of buff leather but of felted wool. So it stands to reason that if leather "buff coats" are to be considered as armour, then so too should these woollen "buff coats".

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Feb, 2020 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Anthony Clipsom wrote:
I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Woollen coats may have been more popular than buff coats, but how would that stop buff coats being armour?


I think Dan's argument here (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is the fact that a couple of the surviving "buff coats" in museums have been recently examined and found not to be made of buff leather but of felted wool. So it stands to reason that if leather "buff coats" are to be considered as armour, then so too should these woollen "buff coats".


An entirely fair comment. Let us consider these felted wool buff-coats as an alternative issue armour. It also serves (for me) as a reminder that Henri was originally asking about fabric armours and here is another variant he can consider.

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