Squire Leather Greaves
The Mark of a Loyal Retainer: The Squire’s Leather Greaves
A common fixture in medieval and fantasy costuming would be leather greaves. Both the typical leg greaves and the armor piece sometimes known as ‘leather arm greaves’ (usually, they’re called bracers) tend to crop up in LARP outfits, collections, and in Cosplay or theatre costumes.
This is because leather greaves are among the more affordable and easily attainable recreated armor pieces and are relatively comfortable, while still looking undeniably cool. They are also ubiquitous with the medieval look and are an incredibly versatile piece of kit.
There are many characters who could sport these greaves. Vikings, scouts, adventurers, and even pirates would benefit from greaves like these, and there are many more possibilities out there.
So, let’s talk about the leather greaves for sale here. As the name suggests, they’re made of segments of tough leather that is securely sewn together. These greaves are available in either black or brown leather, depending on your personal preference.
They’re sturdy and durable but backed with suede leather for superior comfort. What’s more, these greaves are attractive and suit both a historical and fantasy setting. They are designed to be worn over trousers, to protect the calf area of the leg.
The greaves are worn with the protective leather at the front of your calves, to protect the sensitive shin bone. The laced part of the greaves should be at the back of the calf. To tighten the greaves, use the leather laces to fasten them to your leg.
Leather Armor: Fact or Fiction?
Most of us are familiar with the concept of leather armor. We see it represented in films and series set in medieval times, and it’s practically a mainstay of fantasy works. However, there has long been some debate about the historical basis behind leather armor as we know it.
In the late renaissance and early modern periods of history, we do see leather armor in the form of “buff coats”. These were leather jerkins, or jackets, which were commonly worn underneath more protective metal armor in the 17th century.
The buff coat was primarily worn to cushion the wearer from their own armor, preventing the metal breastplate from chafing. They were sturdy while still being flexible and did offer some protection from cuts. However, they were useless against thrusts and bullets, being relatively easy to pierce.
But this armor was around much later than the medieval period. Also, it was less of a functional “armor”, and more like a durable garment that was worn by soldiers and civilians alike. In the medieval period, soldiers tended to wear gambesons (or aketons) instead of leather jerkins underneath (or instead of) their armor.
So, did leather armor actually exist in the medieval period? And if so, what did it look like?
The Fantasy of Medieval Leather Armor
First, we’ll get some common misconceptions out of the way. There are certain leather armor pieces that crop up in fiction with either a fantasy or a medieval setting. The most egregious example that is often found is that of “studded leather armor”.
Studded leather armor is a strange one, because it looks similar to a couple of historical medieval armor pieces. Specifically, the coat of plates and its later incarnation, the brigandine. The name of the coat of plates sort of gives away its design.
Basically, the coat of plates was a type of body armor which became common in the 12th century. It consisted of small, overlapping, metal plates that were riveted inside either a cloth or leather garment, which made it look like a leather coat studded with rivets. This design provided good protection and allowed for a measure of flexibility.
The brigandine was simply a more refined version, which generally had smaller plates than the coat of plates, to allow for even more flexibility. They were often designed to be attractive as well as protective, with the visible rivets creating repeated patterns.
Sometimes, these rivets were decorated, and the outer layer of cloth (more common than leather, unlike the coat of plates) might even be velvet. The brigandine and the similar jack of plates were common well into the 16th century.
Similar armor designs were common all around the world, such as the Indian “coat of ten thousand nails”, the Chinese dingjia, and the Russian kuyak. Even today, the main principle of this design is found in modern flak armor, which are basically cloth garments which have metal plates sewn into them.
So, what’s the link between these historical armors and the more fantastical “studded armor”? Well, if you were to simply look at this type of armor, it would probably look like a studded leather vest. The metal plates aren’t visible.
However, a simple leather vest or jacket which has been studded with rivets would provide no more protection than any other leather garment. The leather used would be quite pliable and, while sturdier than cloth, wouldn’t serve as armor.
The studs would likely make the leather even more prone to damage, as they would interfere with the structure of the leather itself. The studs themselves would be too small to provide any protection and may well serve to guide a dagger point into a weakened part of the garment.
So, that’s studded armor discussed. What about leather armor without studs? Well, this is where things get a little murky. It might be easy to dismiss the idea entirely, because ordinary leather isn’t likely to do much against a lethal blow with a sword or an axe blade. But, as ever, history isn’t black and white.
You’ve probably noticed a lot of “likely”, “probably”, and “maybe” words being used in this section. That’s because, while we can make some educated guesses about leather armor, there’s a lot that we don’t know for certain. There is also some relatively concrete archaeological evidence about leather armor. So, let’s tackle each in turn.
What We Don’t Know About the Historicity of Leather Armor: The Issue with Leather
The wonderful thing about metal armor, weapons, and tools of the medieval period is that we have plenty of solid archaeological evidence of it. Metal might degrade over centuries, but it still sticks around. A rusted sword is still clear evidence of a sword.
But cloth and leather are a different matter entirely. We have a similar issue with most medieval clothing, often all that remains of them are the metal fittings and decorations. You see, organic materials have a nasty habit of rotting.
Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some clothing has survived to this day, either because it was owned by nobility and was looked after, or because it happened to be kept in an environment that preserved it.
For example, bodies found in peat bogs can be very well preserved. Different bogs vary, but the acidic conditions of some bogs, along with the low temperatures and lack of oxygen in such an environment, can have different effects on both corpses and on clothing.
A famous example of this phenomenon would be the Bocksten man, a Swedish man who came to a grisly end in the 14th century. What was special about this find was that, while his flesh had rotted away, his clothing and hair were in very good condition. Archeologically speaking, this was remarkable.
So, why are we talking about the difficulties or archaeology when it comes to organic material? Well, leather is an organic material, meaning that it rots over time. This means that most of the archaeological evidence that might well prove the existence of leather armor has rotted away long ago.
Historians do have sources other than archaeological finds, of course, which is why we know what many people wore during the middle ages. Both artwork and written descriptions help us to fill out a picture of medieval life. However, there is another issue, especially with artwork.
For starters, most artwork would focus on the wealthier people. Portraits would have been painted of people in their best clothing, and even paintings of general life often put a romantic slant on things. Also, medieval artwork wasn’t exactly photorealistic.
This meant that you couldn’t always tell what certain garments of pieces of armor were actually made of, whether it was metal or leather, making this source slightly less reliable than solid archaeological evidence.
What We Do Know About Leather Armor: The Wonderful Cuir-Bouilli
However, despite all the misconceptions about leather armor, and the difficulties of finding concrete archaeological evidence that points towards its existence, all is not lost. First of all, we haven’t discussed literary evidence in detail yet.
This is where things get more interesting. One of the more well-known medieval literary giants was a poet called Geoffrey Chaucer, who famously penned The Canterbury Tales, a collection of 24 stories written in poetic language. These stories are all told by different narrators, including the character of Sir Thopas.
One line in Sir Thopas’s story reads, “Hise jambeux were of quyrboilly”. If you couldn’t understand what that is supposed to say, don’t worry. Middle English is horribly difficult to read. A good tip is to read it out loud (if you can manage a stereotypical English farmer’s accent, go for it).
A modernised reading would be “His jambeaux were of cuir-bouilli”. This is slightly better, especially if you can also speak French. If we translate the French words, it now reads “His greaves were of boiled leather.”
So, we now see that leather armor was at least a concept in medieval times. The idea certainly wasn’t invented by modern fantasy writers, as proven by Chaucer, along with other medieval authors, mentioning it in their works.
But is this the only evidence of leather being used to make armor in medieval times? Simply put, no. Despite the difficulties of finding archaeological evidence of leather armor, we do know that it is possible to find this evidence. Not only is it possible, but some boiled leather pieces have been unearthed.
The British Museum has part of a boiled leather vambrace (upper arm armor) as part of its collection. This armor piece has been dated to about the 14th century, showing that not only was boiled leather in existence during the early middle ages, before plate armor became common, but it even continued to be used alongside plate.
So, what do we know about boiled leather? Well, it was leather that had been especially treated to be harder than typical leather. During the process, the leather became very soft, which allowed it to be pressed into a mould which would give it a certain shape and pattern.
Boiled leather armor pieces were cheaper and lighter than metal plate armor, albeit with less impressive protective qualities. However, it could still mitigate damage from arrows and other attacks. Boiled leather could be reinforced with metal plates to massively improve its ability to protect the wearer.
Boiled leather was in use long before the middle ages, as it was a material that was relatively plentiful and easy to work with. Not only was it cheap, but boiled leather could be impressed with far more intricate designs than metal.
As far as we know, boiled leather was used primarily for armor to protect the wearer’s extremities. Boiled leather greaves and bracers were common, as were leather shields and helmets, especially when reinforced with metal. Horse armor was also made with leather.
Also, desperate soldiers could boil this leather back into a softened state and use it for rations. This was generally a last ditch effort, as the leather would taste awful and have little nutritional value. Also, that soldier would surely miss his armor when in battle.
The technical specifications for the Squire Leather Greaves for sale are as follows:
- Material: Vegetable-tanned full-grain leather.
- Fittings: Leather and brass.
- Colours: Black or brown
These leather greaves are available in three sizes, Small, Medium, and Large. These sizes follow the measurements outlined below:
- Small: Ankle, 8 inches or 20.3 cm. Calf, 12 inches or 30.5 cm. Length, 11.5 Inches or 3.8 cm.
- Medium: Ankle, 9 inches or 22.9 cm. Calf, 12.5 inches or 31.75 cm. Length, 12.25 Inches or 31.1 cm.
- Large: Ankle, 10.5 inches or 26.7 cm. Calf, 15.25 inches or 38.7 cm. Length, 13.5 Inches or 34.3 cm.
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