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Shoulders & Neck Plate Armor

Shoulders & Neck Plate Armor

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Shoulder plates

Constant innovations in armor over the millennia always ran according to the principle, “from damage one becomes wise,” along with technological progress and improved craftsmanship.

 The earliest armor of human history, which was made from natural products, such as tree bark, wool, or leather, offered comparatively little protection, but must always be considered in relation to the commonly used weapons of the time.

Their protective effect was essentially limited to its wearer’s torso. Shirt-like armor protected the upper body and with it the vital internal organs. At least as old are the efforts to protect the fighter’s head. It was generally known that receiving an enemy hit to the head could be devastating. Additionally, there were covers for arms and legs, which were also popular targets to attack.

Joints have always posed a challenge. On the one hand, joints are also highly vulnerable and even slight injuries here can easily render a warrior incapable of fighting or at least reduce their effectiveness in battle. On the other hand, a protective layer was not implemented as it would excessively limit freedom of movement.

Protection for shoulders was given very little consideration until the early Middle Ages. While chain mail at least provided partial shoulder coverage, it did little to negate heavy blows, and the transition to the neck remained largely unprotected. Therefore, the only effective protection was provided by shields, which could repel attacks. However, shields also limited their wielders.

In the late 13th century, so-called axillary shields first appeared in the French army, which, when worn in addition to the large shield, were intended to protect the neck and shoulder.

It wasn’t until the proliferation of massive plate armor that effective shoulder, neck, and armpit protection was available against various weapons.

The basis of shoulder protection forms a collar in plate armor. A metal plate with a circular cutout rests on the neck and is pulled down over the sternum. In addition to protecting the sternum, it serves to secure the shoulder armor. A standing collar additionally protects the neck and, opening into a so-called beard, can cover the entire lower half of the face and thus, in conjunction with a helmet, protect the entire head.

Simple shoulder plates could also be attached with straps directly to the chain mail or a gambeson. The simplest version of leather shoulders was attached with leather straps that ran across the chest and upper back, so they could also be worn over simple textile clothing.

The actual plate shoulders, in a simple version, consist of individual metal plates adapted to the shape of the shoulder, covering only the upper shoulder area, or else reaching down in one piece to about the middle of the upper arm. In addition to the upper attachment, they are tied around the upper arm with straps.

 Longer shoulder plates, however, restricted freedom of movement and limited the angle at which the arm could be raised to the side. In simple models worn without a collar on chain mail or a gambeson, the desired mobility was achieved by first attaching the plates above the top of the shoulder, but this left the area up to the base of the neck unprotected.

To remain mobile even with large, massive plate shoulders attached to a collar, these were constructed in a far more complex manner. Several plates were stacked in a scale-like fashion and movably riveted together so that when the arm was raised, each one slid under the one above it. Thus it was possible to cover the shoulder from the neck almost down to the elbow and at the same time keep the arm mobile.

The uppermost shoulder plate was pulled far down in front so that it additionally covered the armpit. Alternatively, so-called floating discs were attached to the shoulder plates so that the armpit remained protected even during arm movements.

Vertical metal sails or folded edges attached to the uppermost shoulder plate were intended to act as blade breakers, deflecting all horizontal blows to the knight's head from above.

PROTECT YOUR SHOULDERS!

Authentic plate armor is only fully complete with plate shoulders. Worn on top of chain armor or a gambeson, they give your character in LARP or reenactment an awe-inspiring look and demonstrate your readiness for battle.

With Zeughaus you will find a wide selection of collars, plate shoulders, and individual armor elements to protect the shoulder region, which can be combined with different armor pieces and worn both as stylistic elements and as part of a complete armor set.