From the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, through to the development of steel plate armor in the 13th-century, chainmail was the best method of not getting killed: a garment made from a tough, resilient fabric of interlocking iron or steel rings that could turn aside swords and axes with ease. By the High Middle Ages, the typical ensemble of mail had grown to include a new critical component: the coif – a short hooded mantle of chainmail that was worn either as the topmost layer of head protection, or beneath a helmet. Our. Chainmail Coif is a faithful historical reproduction made by the expert chainmail-makers at Mytholon, full of brooding portent to bring a hint of darkness to your re-enactment or live-action roleplay outfit.
Black and Blue
The most striking feature of our Black Mail Coif (although we offer polished and shiny versions too) is its colour: a menacing dark finish. This is the result of ‘gun bluing’, a permanent chemical process originally used on firearms which darkens the steel and makes it more resistant to corrosion. It’s unlikely that medieval armor-makers would have used exactly the same process, but accounts of black chainmail do appear in the medieval record: for example, one Archbishop of York is listed as leaving a suit of black chainmail in his probate records, and almost all medieval Japanese chainmail was lacquered in black or red.
Our Black Chainmail Coif is constructed from 9mm rings in 16-gauge mild steel. Most medieval mail would have been made from iron, which was much cheaper and easier to work, but from the 15th-century onward we have surviving archaeological examples of steel mail. Nowadays, most reproduction chainmail coifs for sale are made from mild steel, and so Mytholon’s makers chose this material in a period-accurate gauge because of its lighter weight and much greater toughness when compared to softer, heavier iron, whilst retaining the right appearance and flexibility.
Note: even though it has been blued, this product is not stainless and must be carefully protected from corrosion to extend its life. It should be kept dry, and when stored should be lightly coated in machine oil. Or just hand it off to your squire and have them do it.
Running Rings Around the Enemy
The construction of our Chainmail Coif marks it as a historically accurate reproduction of a High Middle Ages chainmail coif. It is woven in the traditional European 4-in-1 pattern, where every link is threaded through four others. It is made in an all-riveted construction throughout, with round rivet heads. Even though it is generally more expensive than pieces of chainmail made from rings that have only been ‘butted’ together, riveted chainmail is significantly more resilient. We would not recommend that butted chainmail be used even in simulated combat, but our fully-riveted Black Chainmail Coif is rugged: it will put up with the rough-and-tumble of re-enactment and roleplay use, and is more than suitable for staged combat and light combat usage.
If you’re looking for a chainmail coif to buy, then our Black Chainmail Coif is a menacing addition to your armory. It is designed to match our Black Chainmail in style and finish – it could be a fantastic way to finish off the outfit of a bare-headed sinister mercenary, or it could be worn under the helmet of a dark knight to give an extra degree of authenticity and depth. Put your darkest imaginations to the test…
Coifs in the Medieval Period
The coif was originally a simple civilian garment of lowly status: a unisex cloth cap, often in undyed linen, usually with laces that tied under the chin. For the first half of the medieval period, chainmail was an expensive material available only to the elite in small quantities, and so was generally worn with only a helmet – but from the 11th-century or so, chainmail became more available due to the expansion of mining and armor-making industries. The humble cloth coif was the template for the chainmail hood which now bears its name. Sources such as the 13th-century illuminated manuscript called the Morgan Bible (also known as the Crusader Bible) show us that in the High Middle Ages, chainmail coifs had become widely worn – with clear illustrations of a wide variety of helmet-and-coif combinations: coifs under kettle helms, coifs under great helms, and coifs on their own.
The process of making these coifs was time-consuming and labour-intensive. Medieval chainmail makers would have extruded wire from iron ingots drawn through a draw-plate gauged to the right thickness, which they then wrapped around a wooden shaft to create a spiral. This was then clipped to form individual rings, which slightly overlapped. The rings were generally each hammered to make them flatter, and a hole was punched in each overlapping point. Then the ring was threaded in place, and riveted shut – either with small lengths of wire in the early period to form domed rivets, or later with little stamped wedges of metal. Whilst it was a long process, it was not at all difficult, and could be easily be done by apprentices. However, it never became ‘cheap’ before it was eclipsed in utility by plate armor, and most of the chainmail coifs available to common soldiers would likely have been scavenged, partially repaired, or bought second-hand. Fortunately, modern re-enactors and LARPers don’t have to rely on such sources of equipment today!
- Material: Mild steel
- Finish: Gun-blued
- Ring Type: Round, riveted throughout
- Rivet type: Domed
- Ring Diameter: 9mm
- Configuration: 4-in-1
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Sizing: One Size