What are they LARPing on about?

So the date is set… you’ve got your outfit and you’re ready for action, but there’s one thing left you might want to consider. What does it all do and how is it supposed to work?

It doesn’t matter if your outfit was for Larping, SCA, historical re-enactment, stage or screen or your daughter’s Viking themed wedding… understanding what you are wearing will make you enjoy your event considerably more.

So, we thought it would fun and instructional to take a look at common LARP/re-enactment kit and find out their history and their purpose.

Let’s start with your Vambraces. Sure they look bad ass on your wrists but what are they really for?


( from the French avant bras – before arms ) Vambraces are wrist guards designed to protect the lower arms.  In battle, any limbs and extremities are vulnerable and an opponent with injured arms cannot fight. To protect against sword slashes, dagger cuts, and arrows and bolts, Vambraces also protect the skin on your forearms from the rough metal of plate and chain mail armour.


Gauntlets are long tough gloves which cover the fingers and forearms. Gauntlets are made of tough hide or leather and are sometimes covered in metal plates or studs for added protection. Gauntlets are useful for fighting and defending oneself from sword attacks, but they can also be useful for everyday activities like horse riding and carrying stuff.


(Also known as spalders or shoulders) Pauldrons protect the shoulders from attack, but also allow a little bit of environmental protection against the elements. Pauldrons can also quite decorative partially because of their prominent position on one’s shoulders,  but also because they provide the perfect place to attach one’s cloak.


Greaves would be worn to protect one’s thighs. It’s a little-known fact, but one of the body’s most vulnerable areas in the femoral artery in the upper thigh.  Even to this day, many butchers die each year by accidentally severing this artery with a stray blow. Additionally, the femur is one of the largest bones in the body and as such, it plays a vital role in walking. In the past, a broken femur would have probably meant death or at the least, it would mean the injured soldier would end up crippled.


Sabbatons, or boots are you and I are likely to know them, protect the lower leg and shins from injury. Often made from, or at least reinforced by steel, Sabbatons are designed to stop your enemy from crippling you. As with Vambraces, an enemy who cannot walk cannot carry a sword and if the easiest way to achieve that is to injure their legs, then the obvious thing to do is look after your lower limbs.


The cuirass is designed to prevent any injury to the chest. Clearly, our chest holds the majority of our essential organs and therefore it’s a good idea to keep it safe. Traditionally made from leather or steel, the Cuirass is perhaps the most essential element in one’s set of armour and would perhaps be the first thing on and the last thing one would take off.


A cowl is a simple head covering or hood a bit like a little cloak. It is designed to keep the rain and wind out and to a lesser degree to cover one’s face. The highways and byways of old Northern Europe were not the safest places to travel and sometimes it was literally best to keep one’s head down.


A Celtic or Scottish bag which is essentially a purse or man bag. Traditionally it would be worn with a kilt and would be made of leather or fur. The sporran is an essential device as a kilt has no pockets.  It would normally hang from a chain or small leather belt and would sit on the groin.


Scabbards come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but their function remains the same. A scabbard is a leather holster for a bladed weapon such as a dagger or a sword.  Although traditionally made from leather, variants exist in metal and wood. A common misconception is that a scabbard would be held over one’s shoulder to allow the wearer to quickly draw their weapon. This is a modern invention and has little basis in fact. There were exceptions to this rule most notably some Celtic tribes who fought with shorter words and were, therefore, able to draw them over their shoulders. Most scabbards are actually worn on a belt around the waist or the hip.


(Also known as a Bandolier) The bandoleer is a later version of a scabbard and has an additional holster for a musket or similar weapon. Later bandoleers also had storage for ammunition. Like a scabbard, a bandoleer comprised of leather, but is designed to be worn over the shoulder and has space for a sword or dagger at one’s waist.

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