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During the middle ages, plate armour really started to come into its own in the late 14th century
. Part of this plate armour were what’s known as tassets, which protected the legs along with other pieces of armour. If you’re a collector of armour recreations and like to display them, or you’re planning on wearing a set of full plate armour while LARPing, it’s important to know what the different components of the armour are, when they were introduced and how they were used. You can also browse the tassets for sale here.
What Were Medieval Tassets? Medieval tassets were a component of plated metal leg armour.
They were introduced as plate armour became more widespread, at what’s known as the “high middle ages”. They were designed to protect the upper thigh
, especially from downward cuts. Tassets would be attached either directly to the breastplate, or to the faulds that were part of a whole cuirass
. They would be either riveted to the other piece of plate metal or attached by straps. Riveting was more secure, but the straps would allow for the tassets to be removed much more easily.
Were Tassets Important?
Tassets were an important part of full plate for several reasons. For starters, knights and men-at-arms who fought on horseback
would put a lot more emphasis on leg armour than other soldiers. This is because of the fact that unless the opponent was wielding a polearm, most attacks would be focused on the legs
. Even your average pikeman was more likely to stab a leg or a horse than the rider’s torso or head. Of course, fighters in full plate didn’t always fight on horseback. But tassets were still important, and the legs were still a viable target. They would deflect downwards blows, or cheap leg and groin shots from an opponent
. Also, the thigh contains the femoral artery, which is relatively easy to cut open even with a dagger. A wound to the leg could very easily become fatal. Finally, let’s think about it this way, you see a knight coming towards you and you’re armed with a one-sided cutting sword, like a falchion. You notice that the knight is in full plate armour, but he forgot his tassets. Where are you going to aim? If you want to live, you’re going to strike at the vulnerable part of his body. Sure, stabbing him in the chest or hacking at his head will kill him faster, but he’s got a lot of armour there. If a fighter in full plate was missing any part of his armour, he’s essentially creating an opening in his armour. Of course, many soldiers did wear incomplete armour, but if they could afford full plate, they made sure that they had every component.
Who Wore Tassets?
As a component of plate armour, tassets would always be worn as a part of a full suit of armour
. So, knights and men-at-arms
would pretty much always wear tassets from the time that they were developed. But they weren’t all. In the late medieval period, mercenaries and other professional soldiers
started wearing at least partial plate. Because the tasset was attached to the cuirass or breastplate, these parts of armour were a prerequisite to being able to use tassets. But if they did have a cuirass or breastplate, then the only thing stopping them from using tassets would be the price. If they could afford them, most professionals saw the benefit to not getting stabbed in the thighs. Peasants did not wear tassets
. Well, not unless they’d recently stole them from an unlucky knight, along with his cuirass. Even if he had managed to do that, not get killed in the process, and to somehow keep the armour, such armour would have been far too valuable for him to actually use. As you may have guessed, this didn’t happen.
Tassets or Faulds?
One other piece of armour that often gets confused with tassets are the faulds. While these two pieces of armour work closely together and were introduced around the same time, they aren’t the same thing. For starters, the faulds are considered part of the body armour while tassets are leg armour.
While the tassets protect the thighs, the faulds sit higher on the body, protecting the waist and hips. The faulds were made from horizontal sheets of metal which allowed for more flexibility and formed a sort of apron at the front of the body. They were never made from a single sheet of metal. The faulds also weren’t strapped on, so were attached to the front of the cuirass itself. So, why are tassets and faulds often confused? Well, the tasset usually attaches to the faulds and hangs down from there to cover the thighs. They were used this way up until the end of the medieval period, although they started to be integrated together in the 16th
century and by the 17th
century, the faulds were often replaced by much longer tassets. This later design is likely part of the reason why some people confuse the two.
The History and Development of Tassets
Like many other pieces of medieval armour, tassets of some kind had actually been around since ancient times. The ancient Greeks and Romans wore them as part of their armour, along with breastplates, bracers, a helmet, and greaves. However, these ancient tassets were more like a skirt and wasn’t necessarily attached to the breastplate. When the Roman empire fell, plate armour pretty much disappeared, and with it, tassets. Finally, in the late 13th
century, plate armour started to come back into use. It started out as simple plate reinforcements to supplement the chainmail that was so popular until finally, near the end of the 14th
century, knights and men-at-arms were wearing full plate armour. Tassets were introduced as a component of this plate armour in the 14th
century, and they served a similar purpose to the ancient tasset, which was to protect the upper thigh from attack. However, they were fairly different in design. Each tasset started out as a single plate of curved metal
, which was either riveted or strapped to the faulds of a cuirass or directly to the breastplate. They were worn in pairs, one on each thigh. This allowed the wearer to move about in relative comfort. Around the very end of the medieval period, medieval tassets started to have a segmented design
. This might not have provided exactly the same level of protection, but the segments would overlap to prevent a blade from slipping between the segments. The segmentation would allow for even more flexibility of motion for the wearer
, as they would move more smoothly with the thigh. After the end of the medieval period, the development of tassets, along with plate armour as a whole continued. Eventually they became integrated with the cuisses, which protected the lower thigh, and continued down to the knee. The tasset, while being an often-forgotten piece of armour, eventually went on to showcase the ingenuity of the medieval blacksmith. They were also an integral part of full plate in the later middle ages and up until the end of plate armour. If the display piece or character that you’re designing belongs to the high and late middle ages, and represents a knight or man-at-arms, then you will likely need tassets to complete their armour. Also, around the 15th
century, even mercenaries and other soldiers who tended to wear cuirasses would likely include tassets.
Tassets for Sale
So, now you know how medieval tassets were designed and what they were used for, but what about the tassets for sale here at Medieval Wares? Well, while it would be lovely to have authentic medieval tassets as part of your collection, or part of your costume for LARPing, that isn’t exactly cheap or practical. But it’s okay, we have the next best thing. Recreated armour is something of an artform in itself, and pieces can be designed for comfort, for practicality, and for authenticity
to the design of the medieval armour that inspired it. The type of recreation that is best for you depends on what you’re planning on using it for, and on your budget.
For starters, the more authentic reproductions would be made using iron or mild steel. The other materials that recreated armour might be made from were not available in medieval times and would be impractical for real battle. Modern iron and steel won’t be identical to the metals used in medieval times, being processed to a more exact purity, and a very precise percentage of carbon. The most authentic recreations will have been hand forged using medieval methods, but good results can be achieved using machine processing and for a much cheaper cost. Both iron and steel are prone to rusting
, so you’ll have to maintain your armour to prevent rusting. There may also be leather components
to your tassets, from the straps that attached each tasset to the cuirass. The design of these recreations will be heavily based on either medieval drawings, or examples of armour that have been discovered. The single plated design of tassets stayed mostly the same until after the medieval period, although some segmentation may have been introduced near the end of the middle ages. Authentic recreations are fantastic for any purpose, especially if you have the money to invest in them. However, they will need much more maintenance to keep in good condition.
Other Styles of Reproductions
You can achieve very good results when the recreation is more loosely based on a medieval design, especially if the design is still practical. There will always be some purists who prefer the most authentic design, and that’s okay. But it’s also okay to be more concerned with a more practical, stylised, or cheaper design. Speaking of stylisation, it wasn’t unheard of for medieval plate armour, even including the leg armour, to be engraved or forged in interesting designs. This was admittedly more common in the renaissance, but the later middle ages saw this too. Think about it, this top of the range armour was worn by knights, who were nobility. Plate armour was practical but could also be designed to be as flashy as possible. So, don’t write off fancy armour as fantasy, it happened. If you’re less focused on authenticity, you can get a bit more creative with what material you use with your recreated armour piece. Galvanised iron or steel
is a great middle ground, because it’s essentially metal that is resistant to rust
. Over time, the protecting coating may degrade, but this is great if you want a metal armour that will need less maintenance. Also, you can even wear armour pieces made out of polyurethane
. While it’s not authentic, this material is more flexible, lighter, and so much cheaper than actual metal. It’s sturdy enough to cope with ordinary wear and tear, but you can’t treat it quite as harshly as metal. This material is great when you’re looking for a costume that you’ll spend all day in, but won’t fight in. Another popular material is boiled leather
. Its authenticity in medieval times is possible, but there is some controversy as leather pieces of armour tended to rot away and so didn’t leave much archaeological evidence. However, boiled leather as a material is very popular in fantasy settings, so would leather tassets might be a cheap and comfortable option for you. Less authentic designs can allow for a more fantasy-based costume. A popular choice is something known as “belt shields”, which is essentially a pair of tassets that are attached to a belt. This allows the tassets to be worn without a breastplate or cuirass. It’s a practical design which can even be preferable if you are wearing a cuirass.
It can be easy to forget about each individual piece of plate armour, but don’t ignore the humble tassets. They can complete your suit of armour
, whether you mean to display it as a collection piece, or wear it yourself to a LARPing event. In any case, your armour can be either an authentic recreation of a true historic set, or it can be a little more creative and perfect for a more fantasy-based cosplay or LARPing event.