Thigh Protection Since Ancient Times
These black leather tassets are a perfect addition to your set of light armor for reenactment, LARP, and Renaissance Faires. Using high-grade leather and suede, this adjustable protection fastens by two straps in the front and one in the back to ensure a comfortable fit. The wide belt sits at the waist and the protective layers of leather drop over the thighs on either side, held in place with durable grommets. The position of these sections could help a combatant avoid injury from downward cuts or thrusts that they have parried away from vital areas. If your rogue, ranger, archer, or lightly armored warrior prefers leather over steel, these tassets may be just what you need to finish your look. Available in a range of colours.
A History Of Tassets
The leather tassets most of us are immediately familiar with are the “skirt” style version common to Greek and Roman civilisations. These pteruges also extended from the shoulders of the cuirass to protect the shoulders and upper arms. It’s believed that both the shoulder and thigh sets of these protective tassets were attached to a single garment worn underneath the cuirass. On looking at these kinds of leather tassets, it’s hard to imagine how they were effective but they were used for long enough that they must have had some effectiveness. During the Medieval Period, leather tassets were used extensively in helmets, particularly in Byzantium and the Middle East. Leather pieces stitched to the back and sides of the helmet would offer additional protection to the neck and base of the skull. Suede tassets like this for the legs would certainly offer protection and may have been used on the battlefield but neither material evidence nor examples in painting have been found.
The Downward Thrust
These tassets are an excellent example of the feedback loop that exists between fantasy and history – and how this produces interesting and iconic ideas. This borrows some aesthetics from 16th Century articulated plate but uses entirely different material to create an armor piece that’s rooted in practicality and has the potential to look fantastical. The tassets of the almain rivet type armor that this takes inspiration from were made of articulated, rectangular plates connected by sliding rivets. This kind of thigh protection was usually attached via leather straps to a cuirass made of the same material, and this almain rivet cuirass had similar overlapping sections protecting the shoulders. These tassets, however, are secured around the waist and don’t depend on being attached to a chest piece. This leaves the adventurer free to choose from a wider range of chest armor – either of leather or a completely different material.
Surviving Examples Of Tassets
Unfortunately, there aren’t any surviving examples of historical, medieval, black leather tassets (that we’re aware of). That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, just that there isn’t a great deal of evidence for them. But unlike leather tassets, plate armor tassets have survived very well and given us a glimpse into historical armoring and inspire designs like these black leather tassets. Some of the best-known examples are German, and those created for nobility from the late medieval to Early Renaissance periods often feature delicate engraving work that was a collaboration between armorer and etcher. This type of adornment was costly and time-consuming and probably only done to the armor of the very wealthy.
How Would They Work?
Though these tassets will protect you from discomfort in LARP combat, they would be of limited effectiveness against real Medieval weapons. Let’s assume then for the fun of the discussion that these tassets would have been hardened (which would make them significantly less comfortable for us weekend warriors). Tassets were designed to protect against downward cuts. Many of these attacks, even when successfully blocked, would deflect and hit the thighs. This means some of the power behind the swing has probably been reduced, and the hardened tassets could hold up well. If the tassets could pivot at the points where the grommets hold them together, the wearer would be quite mobile, even able to ride a horse. Of course, another huge advantage of these black leather tassets is that they don’t make any noise. A fantasy assassin stalking through the city at night would likely choose protection like this – matte black, silent, and lightweight.
When And Why Use Leather?
We have few surviving examples of leather armor from the Medieval Period in western Europe in part because of the temperate oceanic climate. There is some debate amongst historians about just how prevalent leather armor truly was in the Medieval and Renaissance Period. Certainly, there are ancient and medieval examples of lamellar armor made of overlapping rectangles of rawhide of leather. It’s also believed that in the early Medieval Period, in the absence of any better options, combatants might use a thick vest of leather to offer some basic protection. But when discussing the historical reality of leather armor (and leather tassets), we are really discussing a specific type of leather armor called cuir bouilli.
Cuir Bouilli – The Real Leather Armor?
It’s been speculated that many men-at-arms during the Medieval Period may not only have been unable to afford mail or plate but may also have been unable to take it on campaign. Knights were mounted and usually attended by a squire. This meant bearing the weight of a full suit of armor was possible. Regular soldiers were on foot and had to carry everything they would need. This is why some historians have suggested a great many of these warriors may have been wearing cuirass, vambrace, and even tassets made of boiled leather. This cuir bouilli leather armor weighed a fraction of its metal counterpart and while it didn’t offer comparable protection to steel, it was a lot better than nothing. We can be reasonably certain that boiled leather was used to create hand, arm, knee, and elbow protection. Scholars have pointed to several tomb effigies as potential evidence for this. The elbow and knee protection in these images are often significantly more ornate than the rest of the armor. Some have argued that these effects would be easier to achieve on material like leather than on steel, given the available technology. Either way, these tassets look right on the battlefield on a variety of characters.
Leather Armor In Video Games
There’s been quite a bit of discussion around the historical accuracy of leather armor as it’s presented in video games. This is understandable. Though there have been some games that attempt to address things more realistically (Kingdom Come Deliverance comes to mind), there was a general misrepresentation present for a long time. Very often, leather armor is presented as a kind of basic option, one step up from wearing a cloth shirt. The assumption here seems to be that leather armor would be made of the same grade, thickness, and hardness as modern, consumer-grade leather. Of course, this is silly. Humans have been boiling leather in wax and oil to improve its properties as armor for millennia. The production of rawhide was also a simple and well-known process that yielded stiffer, harder material for armor than regular, untreated armor. The Elder Scrolls series, at least, gives a nod to the process of boiling leather for armor by including boiled netch armor in the classic RPG, Morrowind.
Vital Leather – Holding Things Together
It’s hard to overstate the importance of leather to Medieval society. Our ways of sourcing, supplying and manufacturing materials in the modern era is so different to what it used to be that it’s easy to forget simple fabrics like linen and cotton were once very valuable commodities. Creating wearable material from plant sources required huge amounts of labour and raw material. Producing leather was by no means easy, but to some extent, it was a by-product of food production. The list of uses leather was put to (and still is) is staggering. Among the most obvious were clothing and footwear, harnesses for horses and cart or plough animals, scabbards and sheaths for swords and daggers.
Leather As A Component
If you’ve ever played a video game or RPG with a robust crafting system, you’ll know that a few leather strips are required to complete your level 30 plate armor. Without leather for straps, many of history’s most iconic armor types either wouldn’t have functioned at all or been seriously compromised. When correctly treated, leather is an incredibly strong material, capable of reliably holding together heavy pieces of plate. It can also be treated to greatly improve its water-resistance properties. Its application in military contexts continues into the modern era – which is really something, given all of the synthetic materials available to humanity. The United States military issues soldiers a set of hot weather and cold weather boots but also allows soldiers to buy an additional set. For these boots to pass muster, they must be made of genuine leather.
Useful Material At A Cost
The process of turning animal skin into a wearable material required a lot of labour and some very noxious material. Humanity’s understanding of chemistry hadn’t yet begun, certainly not to the point that we could find alternatives to using human and animal faeces, urine, and brains at various stages in production. These materials did work via fermentative enzymes but unsurprisingly meant that tanneries tended to be in the poorest areas or on the outskirts of cities. In the Early Medieval Period, the church had a monopoly over leather production and monks carried out most of the labour. This was probably a good hustle for the church, given the importance of leather in society.
The Horrid Process
Tanners preferred hide that had been removed from the animal shortly after it was killed. A big part of curing leather is removing the fats and oils that were present when it was living flesh. Unless these can be removed and replaced with tannin, cedar oil, and alum, the skin will rot. So the first step was to soak the skin in water then beat and scour it to remove as much fat and oil as possible. Next, it was soaked in urine to loosen the hairs. These would then be scraped off with a specially shaped knife (leatherworking tools were and still are amazing). The softening process, called bating, involved pounding human and animal faeces into the skin or soaking it in a solution of animal brains. Nowadays, these enzymes have been isolated and the dung and brains are no longer required. Once the leather has softened enough, the process of tanning can begin. To tan a piece of leather, it would be stretched tight over a frame then tannin, cedar oil and alum were applied at regular intervals until enough of them had soaked into the skin.
- Fasten at the waist with buckles and straps for a custom fit
- Outer leg constructed of layered plates for protection
- Effective defence for light LARP combat
- Works in reenactment, LARP, and theatre
- Suede tasset plates are made from 7-8 oz. leather
- Waist: 38-41 Inches
- Length: 25.5 Inches
- Width: 15 Inches
Measurements are approximate.
The product is natural and handmade, some variations may occur.