Holding up Medieval Leg Armour
(Part of the ADP: Armour Decision Points Series)A speed guide to popular leg suspension methods and materials
The Three Main Types
The C-belt uses the same principles of the modern ladies suspender belt. It uses tension to lightly grip and is mainly using the fact that the legs and posterior are larger than the waist, forming a conical section. This fits the majority of humans, however if you are one of the absolutely true "no hips no bottom" types, you may require a purpoint.
A purpoint or vest uses three principles to suspend the leg 1) Clever tailoring makes a grip around the hip and stomach to cause a lifted suspension via the 2) joinery (buttons or laced points) and a small amount of lift is provided on the shoulders. The shoulders should hold less than 20% of the weight. The tightness and tailoring does most of the lifting!
Webbing consists of long over body straps and belts in combination to hold up the legs. Webbing will generally cross over on the back (not shown). Once again, better webbing systems uses a system like a c-belt to leave less weight on the shoulders.
The three main materials used are leather, natural fabrics and synthetic fabrics. Each of these materials can be used for each of the methods above. I would in each case strongly suggest natural fabrics in every case if you have sufficient skills.
Natural fibres breathe, are washable, are the accurate material for period practices and are low in cost.
Leather has the advantage of being manipulated with easier gained skills and less equipment. It is more expensive, will suffer faster under constant sweat.
Synthetic materials only saving grace is price. It is harder to sew, smells disgusting under the extra sweat it produces, and does not breathe.
For each of the main types you can use
a) buttons - solid buttons provide a painful item to be driven into your body during combat. Fabric buttons hurt less when struck, but are complicated to make.
b) fingerlooped cords - are light, period practice, simple but slightly time consuming to make, are strong and are washable.
c) leather straps and buckles - are easiest to manipulate by tired andrenaline shaking hands. They are expensive and will rot under the sweat produced, and buckles hurt when driven into the body by a shot.
I have used webbings and purpoints - I hated both of them as the weight on my shoulders restricted my shot selection. I consider this to be a serious problem. I suspect the webbing belt was alsways going to have this problem for me by it's design. The purpoint I borrowed was also not specifically built for me - I suspect a well built one for my shape would eliminate the restriction, but I have never worn one. The two people I know who swear by them are, or are married too, superior tailor/ seamstresses.
My Dan/ Sir Blethan C-belt is now around six years old and is only now beginning to fail from leather fatigue. The craftsmanship was fine, the leather is dying from constantly being sweated through, and the Canberra swings from 40c to -10c over the seasons.
What is best for Who?
Credit Card Warrior: If you want something by the weekend get a military harness from ebay. The more elaborate the lower belt, likely the better, and make sure it has a nipple line connector as well.
Support local craftsman - Get a fitted C-belt from Dan/ Sir Blethyn
I am like Macca and have no bottom! - Purpoint
I want my late period rig to be accurate as possible! - Purpoint
The Dream Rig
A fabric c-belt made for my shape with sewn in covered buttonholes with finger looped threads with aglets to make them as easy as possible to tie to the leather receivers at the top of my leg armour.