It was during the medieval era that armour started to leave behind the leather and go towards more metal. During the 8th century, armour was mainly chain mail, made from small pieces of metal linked together. At this time, armour was usually reserved for those of a higher status, such as knights.
By this time the hats had become helmets, almost entirely covering the face. There were several designs for this, but one of the most common was the barbute, which just had gaps for the wearer to see and breathe. This meant that once inside the armour, it was hard for people to know who was on which side in a battle. Painted armour and shields became essential and it was often the case that they were painted with the heraldic designs of the individual knights, so people could recognize which men were on which side.
For the rest of the body, there were a few different options, one of the most common was the hauberk. This is a shirt made from chain mail, which included sleeves and was long, usually reaching to the mid-thigh. Over time these became shorter as many opted for metal leg armour, so the length on the hauberk was not required. One of the problems with chainmail was that it did not offer a large amount of protection as the wearer could still sustain bruising and broken bones. This led to the development of full metal armour.
There were several different styles of breastplates, such as the cuirass, plackart and faulds. Metal gauntlets, arm guards and the feet were also used commonly, particularly by those who were wealthier. Medieval armour developed until there was something to cover and protect every part of the body. There was even armour developed to cover and protect horses during battles.
The designs varied according to wealth and region, so when comparing the armour used in different parts of Europe and England, you would notice some differences. However, they all served the same purpose – to protect the wearer. It is estimated that the average full suit of armour weighed around 20 kg, which may sound very heavy, but today’s soldiers often carry kit that weighs far more than this. In addition, the design allowed for easy movement, although running was not really an option.