Gambesons: from Middle Ages to Western Martial Arts

February 7, 2024

ArmStreet is known for high-quality gambesons, and you can see our under-armor padded jackets, eastern-style long gambesons, fencing gear, padded mittens and gloves, and chausses practically at any SCA, reenactment, or sword-fighting event. ArmStreet was sometimes criticized for compromising a historical element in favor of aesthetics and practicality. Still, from our perspective, we always tried to unite those things, delivering practical armored and unarmored combat gear one step ahead of the current standard, offering unusual and sometimes industry-changing engineering and design ideas. This article sums up our input into the world of gambesons – one of the areas where innovations were bold, constant, and successful.

Medieval Gambesons reinvented: “Dark Star” and “Kingmaker”

Our first big idea was applied to the traditional short European gambeson. The concept of laced-up sleeves has been known since the Middle Ages – this construction was very flexible but had an essential flaw. It was leaving armpits open, which is not the best option for a safe, enjoyable sword-fighting career. Thus, the two-piece design was born and became one of the most-loved designs among sword-fighters for its versatility and an obvious advantage of allowing to wear only one of two pieces, making it a 3-in-1 solution, with a vest, sleeves, and a full gambeson combo.

Two-piece linen gambeson “The Kingmaker” Two-piece linen gambeson “The Kingmaker” Two-piece Linen Female Gambeson “The Dark Star” Two-piece Female Gambeson “The Dark Star”

Unexpectedly, separated sleeves became a thing, as many fighters started to use them under the body armor in hot places, in disciplines where the under-armor padding is not necessary, using only sleeves to have upper arms protected and as a base for armor and gear attachment.

This whole gambeson has two major male and female product lines that include linen, cotton, and woolen options and several premium gambesons like “Dark Wolf” suede leather gambeson and “Morning Star” female gambeson with golden accents, and “The Kingmaker” canvas jacket.

Black suede under armor padding Women's linen gambeson with gold accents “Morning Star” Two-piece under armour padding

HEMA fencing jacket: “One Standard” for all disciplines

Our next big thing was a HEMA jacket, which is definitely not our last HEMA-oriented fencing jacket and already has some unique features that separate it from the other products. This design is very traditional for the Renaissance fencing community. Still, we also brought some unusual solutions, putting Newton-rated fabric inside to open a way for different color options, using a cutting-edge micro-velcro, and making a universal design that works from small-sword to longsword HEMA fencing.

 350N HEMA/WMA fencing jacket “One Standard”

Sword-fighting gambesons for Western Martial Arts

The next big thing is our newest generation of gambesons, called “Layer One,” directly oriented to swordsmen. The three models you see in the photos are international-level fencers with experience in HEMA, armored bohurt, and reenactment. We've been working on this design for over a year, and it has a stunning number of innovations.

Sword-fighting gambesons for Western Martial Arts

This family of gambesons has two lines, “Sport” and “Heritage”, that differ by some practical elements. The “Sport” line has hidden velcro and contrasting accents, and the “Heritage” looks more historically accurate while having the same design. Both lines can be made in 3 different lengths, covering potentially any under-armor use needs.

Swordsman's Gambeson "Layer One" Heritage Edition Midi WMA

Other underarmor padding to match: gloves, coifs and chausses

All our different protective padding has one thing in common – we love it when things work together well and always try to offer a one-complex solution. Our padded gloves also go in two versions, “Sport” and “Heritage,” to match the style of our gambesons. We have a mask overlay to complete the look of your HEMA gear kit, and our padded chausses pants can be ordered with or without contrasting accents to match your style. Even our unique sword-fighting oriented “Dragon” boots have matching colors, as well as our plastic and metal gear.

Padded leather HEMA fencing gloves Fencing padded gloves for HEMA and WMA Padding “The Kingmaker” chausses Padded chausses “The Kingmaker”
Swordsman’s High “Dragon” boots sport edition WMA Swordsman’s High “Dragon” boots heritage edition for WMA