Friday, January 18, 2013

Layers Beneath Armor

An image from Lancelot du Lac et la QuĂȘte du Graal, BNF Francais 343, showing the layers a man-at-arms normally wore beneath his armor: breeches, shirt and arming doublet. Note that this differs from How a man schall be armyd, which I believe is specific to a judicial duel.

Modus armandi milites ad torneamentum, a manuscript compiled around 1330 and Chaucer's Sir Tophas both describe a man-at-arms wearing a shirt as his innermost layer. Cloth worn next to the skin accumulates sweat, skin oils, dead skin cells and dirt. For a soldier on campaign, it is both pleasant and convenient to be able to simply put on a clean shirt in the morning.

However, a shirt worn beneath a tight fitting doublet can ruck up awkwardly. A man planning to fight a judicial duel won't need to wear the same doublet the next day, so having the doublet lining the innermost layer is a reasonable approach in that context.


Hugh Knight said...

Why do you believe that the shirt makes a difference between whatever kind of fighting this figure was doing and a judicial combat? Is, perhaps, a shirt for added comfort on campaign--reducing chafing in the long term?

Will McLean said...

Hugh, I've updated the post to answer your question.

Hugh Knight said...

Thank you, your answer is quite logical.

John Johnson said...

I just discovered your blog and had a question that I'm hoping you might be able to answer (and it's even somewhat related to this post). I've made a mail coif for costume/re-enactment purposes and I find that the coif just doesn't stay put when I bend my head down. The part of the coif from my chin down to the top of my chest just swings around wildly.

I can't imagine a medieval warrior putting up with this kind of thing but I can't figure out how to make it tighter. I've yet to get an arming cap, but would that alone be enough to keep the coif from swinging wildly?