Week in, week out, when a problem calls for battle-dress expertise, my buddies come, cap in hand, whining to yours truly. You’d think its something that 21st Century hippolatas would have a handle on by now—some of these things have been around 3000 years, for crying out loud—but still some schmucks can’t tell their gauntlet from their glave. Well, no more! Here is my no-holds-barred guide to the most commonly asked questions regarding battle dress:
What is the best item of battle gear to bring along on a first date?
Without a doubt, a solid beaten-leather coif. Beaten leather is important, as the scored kind gives a ‘serf pressed into battle’ look that is hardly going to inspire that hottie from Roxies. Oh, if you’re a chick, then a breastplate. What else?
If I am going into battle [x]; what should I wear?
I get this so often. “Al, what’ll give me a fighting chance against a maniac with a hand-and-a-half sword?” “Al, can chain mail coupled with a quilted vest lessen the impact of velocity weapons?” Or the one I keep getting from Rueben: “Al, will a cap or helm stop a .44 bullet from piercing my head and making my vital functions cease vitally functioning?” Guys! Take a hold of yourselves. It’s been over a century since armour was used seriously in any military campaign. Get a sense of perspective, for Christ’s sake.
When is full-plate armour appropriate?
Full-plate armour is always appropriate. It’s the ‘fashion police’ who tell you otherwise. Mine is black with red decal on the helm, and an edged extended visor. I look like the fucking black prince.
What is a nice understated accessory to an outfit of medieval armour (say 14th C)?
I’ve always found that a pouch of caltrops works pretty well with anything. As long as you’re not all “Here I am with caltrops”—Who can stand that? Also plaque belts. Smooth.
Should I research heraldry, or is it O.K. to just go with what looks nice?
Opinion is divided on this issue. If you are lucky enough to have a distinguished and noble ancestry that means you can dig around and find something genuine and rock-and-roll, then that’s the nuts. Rough luck if you end up with some martlet cadency, with your trefoil diminutive! Sorry, I had to get that one out! Seriously, if you want to have a snake-headed dragon coming out in 3-D from a volcano, in Global Hypercolour, go for your life. Heraldry is gay anyhow.
On the occasions I have tried wearing battle dress, I have done it under my clothes and not worn a helmet. Does this mean I am a pervert?
I think this misconception is very, very common. They see someone walking cap-à-pied, maybe on TV, and they think, “Maybe it’s me.” It then takes them weeks, or even months before they do something about it—maybe they Google ‘armour’, or visit an armoury. Maybe, like myself, they invest in 40 kilos of wrought iron and lock themselves into their garage for 60 consecutive hours, emerging like a phoenix from a flame of their own making. It’s empowering to know how it feels to have an erection press against still-hot metal.
I will level with you—that first step can be pretty daunting, and awkward, sure. But the best way to deal with the devil is to stare him out. So get a proper headpiece—a sallet, or barbute, but make sure it has an open face. Then you can stride into your local, look the bartender in the eye and say “Yeah? This is me. And I’m carrying more weight on my neck than an overfed child with elephantiasis of the head. So?”
Is it permissible to wear Japanese armour, such as the ô-yoroi, amongst European forms of armour?
No, you’ll look French.