whats best under chainmail ?

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whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Sat Aug 03, 2013 11:30 am

For dark age re-enactment combat - when wearing Chainmail - butted/riveted - what would be the most suitable thing to wear - linen or wool tunic or leather type jerkin ?


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Biro » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:16 pm

Wool. Maybe two of them if you want that bit more protection.

Leather? Absolutely not.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Hobbitstomper » Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:13 am

Leather jerkin is okay until someone smashes a spear in to your shoulder joint, which it doesn't protect.

Half a dozen layers of linen would work or less of wool.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:47 am

leather over linen / wool would be ok then ?


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby surofdunholm » Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:18 am

There are 3 things I consider:
Oily chainmail can ruin a good tunic; not good if you (or the wife) have spent weeks embroidering it.
What's under the tunic can displace the weight of the chainmail so makes it much more tolerable to wear.
What will absorb impact, so save bruising; sometimes you get hit harder if your opponent sees you in chainmail, this of course depends on the society/group your fighting.

I use a padded/quilted undershirt I made from a couple of layers of blanket covered in linen. It gets dirty and blends !!

Hope this helps



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Biro » Sun Aug 04, 2013 9:28 am

surofdunholm wrote:Oily chainmail can ruin a good tunic;


Absolutely.. (which is one reason to wear two.. an old, plain, oily one to take the damage) Maybe linen over wool would work better as it wouldn't snag as much and would last longer in terms of wear..

The problem with leather is that it doesn't breath - and certainly for high medieval (not totally sure about early), there is no evidence for it and it kind of smacks of copying hollywood rather than having a solid basis on evidence.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Medicus Matt » Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:32 am

Why would you wear a posh, embroidered tunic on the battlefield, under mail or otherwise?


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Sun Aug 04, 2013 10:58 am

Hypothetically - in a real fight scenario - wearing for instance - a layer of padding of linen and a layer of wool under chainmail - and if by force of a thrust of a spear or sword - chainmail links were popped - would a) the remaining layers prevent or lessen the chance of a penetrating wound ? b) if there were a leather layer under the mail and over the fabric this would dramatically reduce the risk if a penetrating injury to a blunt force trauma ?

I know that there is little in the way of evidence of leather under mail, but it dose seem obvious to have a layer !, as leather armour has been around yonks before the dark age !


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Biro » Sun Aug 04, 2013 12:31 pm

UN-hardened leather is really quite bad at protecting from bladed weapons (I'm reliably informed)



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby surofdunholm » Sun Aug 04, 2013 1:04 pm

Medicus Matt wrote:Why would you wear a posh, embroidered tunic on the battlefield, under mail or otherwise?


Because this would usually befit the status of the character; from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Sun Aug 04, 2013 7:56 pm

Saxons - when they be rollin - we be hatin !


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Medicus Matt » Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:11 pm

surofdunholm wrote:
Medicus Matt wrote:Why would you wear a posh, embroidered tunic on the battlefield, under mail or otherwise?


Because this would usually befit the status of the character; from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.


And your evidence for that in a later Anglo Saxon context is...?


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:03 pm

I don't know what was actually worn in the period, but a few things come to mind:

1. Mail will pull and tug at the fabric underneath. Wool will suffer really badly from this. A tightly woven linen will stand up to it better and leather even better still.
2. To prevent penetrateion of a weapon that has already gone through the mail, you'll want multiple layers to prevent piercing and cutting.
3. You need a garment that will absorb and spread impacts. This requires a degree of stiffness, which again leather is better at than linen, which is better than most wools. However, the construction offers more to this than the material used.


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby surofdunholm » Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:49 pm

Medicus Matt wrote:
surofdunholm wrote:
Medicus Matt wrote:Why would you wear a posh, embroidered tunic on the battlefield, under mail or otherwise?


Because this would usually befit the status of the character; from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.


And your evidence for that in a later Anglo Saxon context is...?


A good point Matt.
The options for wearing kirtles with chainmail are then: either an Anglo-Saxon/ Anglo-Dane had different kirtles, a plain kirtle for campaigning/fighting and embroidered kirtles for general wear/hobnobbing/administering their estates etc. One can therefore assume from this that the preservation of his embroidered kirtle, while wearing chain-mail, overrode any benefits he might gain by flaunting his status/wealth while fighting alongside his ealdormen, other thegns and, quite possibly, ceorls.
Or, an Anglo-Saxon of affluence and rank would continue to flaunt his status/wealth, by way of his embroidered kirtle, even while wearing chain-mail.
To be honest, though I’m no academic so may stand corrected, I can’t find any concrete evidence of embroidered kirtles being worn under chain-mail; bearing in mind also that you can’t see very much of the kirtle under any chain-mail throughout the Bayeux tapestry. Can I find evidence that the Anglo-Saxon warrior wore embroidered kirtles, yes; evidence that Anglo Saxons wore chain-mail, of course.
Personally I base my Anglo Saxon character on the latter probability. Anglo Saxons were renowned for their embroidery, which served not only to embellish garments but strengthened the hem; very practical my persona, as is my very talented wife!

By the way Matt, you said embroidered kirtles were ‘posh’ not me; woollen embroidered kirtles are wholly practical, as well as pleasing to the eye. :makeup:



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Alice the Huswyf » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:35 am

I don't think you coming from the right angle here - it's not the quality of clothing that you perceive you ought to wear under your mail that counts - it is the status signifiers that go over it that tell.

Much as modern pips, insignia, flashes and badges over essentially utilitarian combat uniform do, a Saxon's torcs (and other jewellery signifying personal status and battle honours) would have been a more practical VISIBLE and telling sign of status than embroidered edges to mostly obscured garments.

In periods when textiles are a resource, a gift worth giving and receiving (rather than modern, disposable whims) they would be preserved and handed on. Why wear best clothes to fight - unless as a figurehead, who doesn't engage and who is essentially what the standards represent. Have you tried getting even simpler stains out of mixed dye batches of wool without run or fade or shrinkage? Have you tried darning rents? Even invisible repairs devalue any garment. If woven wool is prone to snagging, do you realise how much more fragile overlaid stitching is? A plain applied band of costlier wool would also represent status as noble work wear, without risking the valuable hours of embroidery. For the same reason Mess Dress and Number 1 uniform is kept for state occasions, you'd not wear banquet wear on the field, especially as a thegn or Housecarl of standing would've been identified by your personal standards or group of warriors following your lead - if not by your reputation. (After all, populations were not so large as now and we so easily discount regional knowledge as a factor. Bet you'd recognise Lord bath in his daily jumpers - his estate workers certainly would. Word of mouth provided effective information long before Twit-er, Farcebook et al.) Practical combatants would opt for stout clothes to do the job in. And wear the good stuff to celebrate in (or hide against sack).

Linen armour is the best under mail. It breathes. It is the hardest vegetable fibre. It is easy to source (although not to process). It is absorbent, wicking sweat from the body, therefore allowing for whatever possible element of evaporation cooling conditions will allow. It dries more quickly. Not only do the fibres swell (increasing weave density) when it become wet, but the fibres are actually stronger - so sweating into it has some unforeseen benefit. The number of layers in padded armour do count to an extent, but it is the method stitching the layers together which contributes to the density of the garment. It has even been made in a ventilated form (the later coat of eyes - double hardened but aerated by hundreds of square-worked eyelets). The argument that leather (especially unboiled leather) is stiffer than linen is fatuous once you have seen a well made worn-in gambeson / jack / whatever stand up on its own. Especially ones made entirely of coarse linen layers. Newly made ones are less flexible. And they work: even without mail, they won't prevent puncture wounds, but will mitigate them and will reduce a potential rib-breaker to a very nasty bruise.

You see a leather under cote - but were these lined with rawhide or iron plates? In which case you are either looking at layered redundancy, or possibly a well-intentioned misrepresentation. From practical economy, why waste leather - better used to a multiplicity of other ends - on a garment that can be made more effectively from an annual crop? Becuase of differing meat consumption and stock farming, Saxon leather would have been a resource in it's own right rather than a meat-industry by-product as today. You can make soft armour from linen - but not shoes. Leather is expensive in time and cash to raise, taking several years to crop: especially as Saxons preferred the meat from older animals who had worked and bred for a lifetime - Norman taste for taking Saxon young breeding stock as meat animals being a main element of agricultural depradations (which affected the quality of supply for generations).


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:38 am

Wow !!!!!!!!!!! - gonna read that a couple of times to get it into my head !

Thank you for a fab post Alice ! :thumbup:


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Merlon. » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:48 am

As a complete outsider to the period in question.
Surely the wearing of mail in its self is an indicator of status in this time frame? A significant amount of time energy and resource would have gone into its production.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:24 am

surofdunholm wrote:By the way Matt, you said embroidered kirtles were ‘posh’ not me; woollen embroidered kirtles are wholly practical, as well as pleasing to the eye. :makeup:



Posh is always a subjective term. Let's say 'nice' instead. :D

The best image we've got of what I would imagine to be warriors of some means (bearing in mind that EVERYONE in the fyrd' was a person of some means) is that bit towards the end of the BT, the 'Malfosse' scene, where you have a chap with a Danexaxe and sword but no helm or armour (late to the fight?). His tunic, and that of the others depicted in the same scene, are monochrome without decoration.


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:36 am

Merlon. wrote:As a complete outsider to the period in question.
Surely the wearing of mail in its self is an indicator of status in this time frame? A significant amount of time energy and resource would have gone into its production.


Not as such, no. Aethelred Unraed commanded that every 8 hides of land must provide a helm and a mailshirt; a publicly funded, state owned armoury.


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Colin Middleton » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:06 pm

Excellent post Alice, however I would like to challenge a few of the comments. Hopefully this will generate some useful discussion, rather than pick appart your superbe guidance.

Alice the Huswyf wrote:The argument that leather (especially unboiled leather) is stiffer than linen is fatuous once you have seen a well made worn-in gambeson / jack / whatever stand up on its own. Especially ones made entirely of coarse linen layers. Newly made ones are less flexible. And they work: even without mail, they won't prevent puncture wounds, but will mitigate them and will reduce a potential rib-breaker to a very nasty bruise.


While I agree with all the points that Alice has made here, I think that she may have over-looked a few significant issues that could influence our thinking.

Firstly, there are 15th C comments relating to the construction of a jack stating the softer jacks are more effective. Also the famour French statute descirbing how a jack should be made specified USED linen, presumable again so that it is softer. To my mind, this would result in better energy absorption and make it harder to cut through the jack.
Modern jacks tend to be made of fresh new linen (or possibly not even from layers of linen), which can result in quite different properties to those that would be manifested in the originals that we hope to replicate. Further, our knowledge of how jacks were made is very limited. This is an area with very little studdy and very, very few surviving examples, meaning that we very-much have to make guesses and assumptions on how jacks were assembled, and consequenttly we may be going down completely the wrong path. Also, modern re-enactment jacks tend to be made for a quite different purpose. We are trying to prevent bludgeoning damage from blunt weapons, while our Medieval ancestors were more-likely trying to prevent piercing wounds (and possibly the impact as well). This makes our assessment of such things very tricky.
To complecate matters further, the nature and purpose of jacks may well have changed between 1200 and 1400 as developments in other armour and weapons drive forward the requirements.
There are also references from the High Middle Ages to aketons (padding) made up with pitch or code in their construction. This could well be acting as a glue, which might further re-inforce or stiffen the garment, going completely against the first point that I raised.
And to finish, the French manuscript that I mentioned does describe that the best jacks contain a layer of leather as well. Has anyone any thoughts on why this is specified?

And before anyone points out, yes I do know that most of hte evidence that I've listed above is based on 15thC sources, not 10th C and that may invalidate many of the points. However many of the points may also be applicable, but we will have to try to work out which they are...


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Biro » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:33 pm

And back to the question of generic 'Dark Age' re-enactment - I'm pretty sure we're looking at a timeframe before aketons/gambesons/jacks (whatever we want to call them) were present. So without any real evidence of specialist 'arming clothes' - I would assume that the mail just goes over 'normal, everyday clothes'.

But the question of what is best.. best in terms of accuracy? or best in terms of practicality in terms of re-enactment?



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:50 pm

Biro wrote:And back to the question of generic 'Dark Age' re-enactment - I'm pretty sure we're looking at a timeframe before aketons/gambesons/jacks (whatever we want to call them) were present. So without any real evidence of specialist 'arming clothes' - I would assume that the mail just goes over 'normal, everyday clothes'.


Can open, worms everywhere!

Safer to say that, based purely on available evidence, it seems to be a period BETWEEN the use of 'specialist arming clothes' as their use is well attested both before and after the early medeival period.

So it depends on which school of thought you adhere to, the "there's no evidence so I'm not going to use it" school or the "there's evidence for it before and after the period" LoEINEoL school.


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Biro » Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:15 pm

I know! I tried my best not to mention it. I really did.

The problem is though without evidence of it for that period, how can you re-create it? There is evidence of mail being work just over the cotte as late as the 13c - so regardless of whether they had textile armour in the earlier periods, I'm sure there would still be those just throwing it over their tunic - of course, based on the original question, it doesn't mean that was the best way they did it.



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Alice the Huswyf » Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:36 pm

I understand that a liner, at the very least, is essential : especially with swimwear styles . Cue Langley........


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby surofdunholm » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:45 am

Thane: I have some bad news dear; the fyrd has been called and I must go on campaign.

Wife: You going chasing the Welch again?

Thane: No dear, I hear it’s the Vikings this time and it looks like there’ll be a big battle somewhere around the Maldon area.

Wife: I’ll go and get sort out your kirtle for you my husband; sob.

Thane: And my chain-mail dear.

Wife: What! you’re not wearing your campaign kirtle with your chain-mail, you’ll just ruin the embroidery! Do you realise how much more fragile overlaid stitching is?

Thane: What’s your problem? I promise I’ll be careful, I’ll wear an under tunic; all the lads are wearing their embroidered tunics on this one, I’ll be the laughing stock. Look dear, if I survive it’ll be as good as new; I might get a wound though.

Wife: Then you’re definitely not wearing your embroidered kirtle if you might get a wound as well! Have you tried getting even simpler stains out of mixed dye batches of wool without run or fade or shrinkage?

Thane: I’ve more chance of getting a wound if I don’t wear my chain-mail dear!

Wife: No…here, wear this plain kirtle, it’s got a plain applied band of costlier wool which will also represent status.

Thane: No! its plain, it’s brown and I’ll look like a ceorl!!!

THANE TAKES HIS EMBROIDERED KIRTLE AND STORMS OUT SLAMMING THE DOOR BEHIND HIM.

Thane: If I get killed and we lose this battle it’ll be your fault!



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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Alice the Huswyf » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:23 am

W


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Re: whats best under chainmail ?

Postby Bad Viking » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:38 am

surofdunholm wrote:Thane: I have some bad news dear; the fyrd has been called and I must go on campaign.

Wife: You going chasing the Welch again?

Thane: No dear, I hear it’s the Vikings this time and it looks like there’ll be a big battle somewhere around the Maldon area.

Wife: I’ll go and get sort out your kirtle for you my husband; sob.

Thane: And my chain-mail dear.

Wife: What! you’re not wearing your campaign kirtle with your chain-mail, you’ll just ruin the embroidery! Do you realise how much more fragile overlaid stitching is?

Thane: What’s your problem? I promise I’ll be careful, I’ll wear an under tunic; all the lads are wearing their embroidered tunics on this one, I’ll be the laughing stock. Look dear, if I survive it’ll be as good as new; I might get a wound though.

Wife: Then you’re definitely not wearing your embroidered kirtle if you might get a wound as well! Have you tried getting even simpler stains out of mixed dye batches of wool without run or fade or shrinkage?

Thane: I’ve more chance of getting a wound if I don’t wear my chain-mail dear!

Wife: No…here, wear this plain kirtle, it’s got a plain applied band of costlier wool which will also represent status.

Thane: No! its plain, it’s brown and I’ll look like a ceorl!!!

THANE TAKES HIS EMBROIDERED KIRTLE AND STORMS OUT SLAMMING THE DOOR BEHIND HIM.

Thane: If I get killed and we lose this battle it’ll be your fault!




LOL -- awesome insight !!!!! I'm learning more than I bargained from this thread !!


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