A Soldier’s Best Friend: The Steel Arms Bracers
Bracers of different types were used by different soldiers throughout history, making them ideal for all kinds of historical or fantasy LARPing purposes. Whether your character is heavily armored or they prefer to keep themselves as unencumbered as possible, they may well field a pair of bracers. So, from archers and scouts to knights and commanders, we’re looking at a versatile piece of kit.
If you prefer to display armor, these steel arms bracers would make a nice addition to any collection. They are attractive, which is always a plus, and have a classical design that can suit many different ensembles. Basically, no matter why you want bracers, these are a great option.
The steel arms bracers are designed to cover the outside of the wrists and part of the forearms, being constructed with a steel plate that wraps around the arm. Each bracer is secured onto the arm with two leather straps, which are riveted to the plate. These straps are adjustable and can be tightened or loosened to fit your arm, before being fastened with buckles. This makes the bracers a more comfortable fit for most wearers.
While the design of these bracers is undeniably classic and fairly simple, that doesn’t make them bland by any means. The polished finish makes the steel arms bracers very attractive. They would go well along with other plate armor, or even on their own.
We also have some slight embellishment around the edges of the metal plate, which is marked with repeated notches. Remember that this is a handmade product, so each one will be very slightly unique. This makes them even more similar to historical bracers made by a blacksmith, as everything was handmade in medieval times.
Bracers in Battle: Historical and Fantastic Uses Alike
As people who have an interest in either medieval history, fantasy, or both, it makes sense to find out exactly how bracers were used and how the design has shifted through time. It might also be interesting to see examples of bracers in fantasy fiction, whether in games or stories.
Arm Protection through History
There are a few different types of bracers seen throughout history. They are an ancient armor piece, with evidence of stone wrist guards hailing from the Bronze age existing in European archaeological sites. Because everyone who had been alive back then is probably long dead, we can’t know for certain how they were worn and why. This has led to some speculation as to whether they were an armor piece, or simply a status symbol.
There are also historical examples of wrist guards made with gold or amber, sometimes embellished with gems. These are almost certainly for ornamental use, serving to set the wearer apart from everyone else. Gold makes for awful armor, even if you ignore the expense of it.
Bracers made of leather or plant fibres were also very common. These usually wrapped around the wrists and forearms. These kinds of arm guards would have remained in use for millennia, as leather was always a popular and useful material for protective clothing. It’s still a popular material today, as it is tough and flexible.
Bracers could have several different designs, which usually depended on who was using them. Archers and hunters were most likely to wear bracers that either wrapped completely around the arm or were designed to cover the inner wrist and forearm. It could be worn on both arms but would usually be worn on their bow-holding arm.
This is because both the bowstring and the arrow’s fletching can whip against the forearm when the bow is loosed. Due to the speed and power of your typical bow, this can cause a nasty injury, which could even interfere with the archer’s next draw of the bow. When you’ve got a wild beast or soldier charging at you, you don’t want any interference there. The bracer also serves to prevent any loose sleeves from catching the bowstring and ruining your shot.
As archers have existed since prehistory, these archer’s bracers have a similar lifespan. But there were other types of arm guards introduced through time. The Ancient Romans had bracers for both entertainment and war.
Soldiers and gladiators wore what was known as a “manica”, which was a set of overlapping metal plates that were fastened to leather straps and ran along the outside of the wearer’s arm. Bracers were also used in some ancient ball-games, where a heavy leather ball would be batted about using the fist or forearm. This game would be similar to modern volleyball.
We also see bracers worn by other soldiers in medieval times. These could be made of either a metal plate, or boiled leather, and they resembled the recreated steel bracers that we’re featuring here. The leather versions were sometimes reinforced with strips of metal.
These bracers were designed to be worn in the thick of battle and served to protect the forearms and wrists from a sword blow that could otherwise render that arm and hand useless. They were often part of a set of plate armor, worn by knights and men-at-arms or other professional soldiers. Underneath could be either mail sleeves, or thick cloth armor.
As time went on, the design for bracers became more complex, becoming “vambraces”. They would be constructed of two plates of metal that wrapped around the forearm and protected it completely. They also encompassed the elbow, wrapping around the outside of the elbow with enough articulation to allow the knight to bend his arm. These would connect to the gauntlet and sometimes be integrated with the upper arm protection.
In modern times, bracers are still primarily used for archery and sometimes for other sports.
The Use of Bracers in Fantasy
As usual, fantasy makes things a little more interesting. You see, fantasy allows you to have the freedom to do almost anything you want, as long as it makes sense and doesn’t pull the audience out of the story.
Anyway, this means that bracers pop up all the time in fantasy. Usually, they’re just part of the set dressing, along with other armor pieces. But we do see some interesting uses of this seemingly minor piece of armor in some fantasy works.
Whether you’re trying to think of a backstory for your LARP character, you’re interested in creating your own worlds as a writer or a Games Master, or you just have an interest in fantasy, it can be nice to check out how bracers can be used.
One common thing we see is enchanted bracers. These can get really interesting. A common enchantment is to bestow increased strength on the wearer using magical bracers. Belts are another common item to be given this enchantment, but this is usually thanks to the Norse God Thor and his belt of strength. Bracers of strength just seem to make sense.
Other enchantments that crop up in fantasy bracers can include unbreakable bracers that can block any missile or sword strike, acting as a mini-shield. A more symbolic enchantment we sometimes see would be bracers that bind or restrain the wearer somehow, acting more like wrist-cuffs than armor.
Obviously, there is no limit when it comes to magic items, which is part of the beauty of fantasy. Still, most creators try to make the enchantment make some kind of sense, whether it’s a deeper symbolic meaning or just a logical extension of how we view an item.
The exception to logical enchanted items crops up mostly in games where the player can enchant their own items. Sure, some games do limit this to an extent, but many let you do what you like.
Symbolic Use of Bracers
Whether the bracer is enchanted or not, they can be a great way to develop or establish a character. Pretty much any accessory can be used for this, but bracers are usually associated with warriors and rangers.
One fantastic example of bracers being used for characterisation can be found in the Peter Jackson adaptation of the Lord of the Rings, particularly in the Fellowship of the Ring. When Boromir falls to a frankly excessive number of arrows, he is consumed with feelings of guilt and failure. This is due to his attempt to take the ring from Frodo and his failure to protect Merry and Pippin, despite fighting an impossible and valiant battle.
He is discovered in this state by Aragorn and uses his final breaths to finally acknowledge Aragorn’s birthright as the king of Gondor and to ask him to defend his people. Before this point, Aragorn and Boromir tended to clash on occasion, due to Boromir’s temptation toward the ring, his insistence that Gondor didn’t need a king, and his belief that Aragorn had too little faith in mankind.
For his part, Aragorn accepted Boromir’s apology and comforted him as best he could. The interesting bit comes after Boromir dies. You see, Boromir was a man of Gondor and so wore appropriate armor, including bracers emblazoned with the symbol of Gondor. Aragorn removes these bracers and wears them himself, before sending Boromir’s body down the river.
It’s a very simple scene and the bracers are easily missed. However, it does provide an extra layer of characterisation for Aragorn. His practical side is shown, as these are decent bracers and there’s no need to let them go to waste. But it acts as a way for Aragorn to honour his fallen friend, keeping a piece of Boromir’s armor with him. Also, these Gondor bracers foreshadow Aragorn’s later decision to accept his destiny as a man of Gondor.
Bracers are uniquely suitable for this kind of characterisation through armor and accessories. They are highly visible without being distracting, so it makes sense that a warrior would wear them. This means that any decorations, such as the White Tree of Gondor, are also always visible. For more practical considerations, bracers are simple to remove. A scene where Aragorn tries to wrestle Boromir’s chainmail shirt from his corpse would be more ridiculous than respectful.
Bracers as Costume: Creating a Character
So, when we look at bracers in both history and fantasy, we can see how we can use them for our own purposes. Somebody looking to display armor might not put as much consideration into how to use clothing as part of creating a character, but they would want something that looks good and complements the rest of their collection.
But what about those among us looking for something to wear? The first thing to consider is whether you’re looking for an ensemble grounded in history, or something with a more fantastical leaning. There is a spectrum to be found here, as even some historical outfits allow for a little poetic licence.
If our character is very grounded in real medieval history, only certain people are going to be wearing bracers. Many of these will be soldiers of some sort and will match the bracers with other pieces of armor. Or they’ll be archers and hunters. Historically, there aren’t many accounts of women wearing armor. Saying that, it wasn’t unheard of.
However, if we’re going for an outfit more loosely based on history, or which draws from fantasy, we can experiment. Bracers can be worn by anyone, if you can give them a reason. Sometimes they just complete a certain look, or they can be used to give a character a hint of danger. Even with no other armor, braces and a weapon signify a fighter.
The technical specifications for the steel arms bracers are as follows:
- Materials: 16 gauge steel with leather straps
- Length: 7.8 inches
- Wrist Width: 3.4 inches
- Forearm Width: 4.5 inches
- Wrist Circumference: 9.3-13.5 inches
- Forearm Circumference: 10.3-14 inches
- Care Instructions: Use oil regularly to protect the steel from rust. Treat the leather straps with appropriate oil also.