Iconic Types of Medieval Armor: A Look at History's Most Iconic Battle Suits

The medieval period was a time of war, characterized by epic battles, sieges, and conquests.

Knights and warriors required defense against the lethal weapons of their adversaries in this chaotic and dangerous time.

Lethal weapons led to the development of armor, which was essential in defending soldiers and influencing the result of battles.

With cutting-edge components and combat-tested designs, armor developed into a complex defense system through time.

This article will examine the most iconic knight armor types, describing their features, origin, and how they influenced medieval warfare.

Keep reading if you're interested in how medieval armor shaped history or are just a fan of this exciting historical era.

Chainmail Armor

Chain mail armor

Chainmail armor, also known as "maille," was a significant medieval armor protecting warriors and knights during battles.

The earliest evidence of chainmail armor dates back to the Celts in the early centuries BC.

It was improved by the Romans, who utilized it to defend their troops. However, chainmail became a more popular armor of the Middle Ages and extended over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Chainmail armor was a favorite of warriors and knights due to its adaptability, dependability, and capacity for a solid defense.

The design and construction of chainmail armor were complex and time-consuming. Craftsmen carefully connected tens of thousands of tiny metal rings to create a sheet of armor covering the wearer.

Ring sizes varied, from small 4mm to large 2cm rings that fit on the torso. The interlocked rings created a durable, flexible sheet that protected the wearer from cutting or thrusting weapons.

Warriors used Chainmail armor in many famous battles throughout medieval history. During the 11th and 12th-century chainmail armor was the most popular armor type. The Knights Templar used chainmail armor in the Crusades to the Holy Land.

The soldiers wore Chainmail armor at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, a crucial English victory during the Hundred Years' War.

Chainmail armor was necessary for medieval warfare because it offered complete defense against multiple weapons the warriors encountered in combat.

The armor's flexibility made it one of the most effective armors it provided:

  • Freedom of movement.
  • Enabling warriors and knights to be mobile and agile during the fighting.
  • Increasing their chances of survival.

Plate Armor

Plate Armor

One of the most recognizable knight armor types, plate armor had its roots in the 14th century. The warriors were protected by plate armor against different weapons employed on the battlefield, such as the longbow and the crossbow.

This armor used various materials, including steel, iron, and brass, depending on the type of plate armor. The plates frequently included crests and symbols. The plates were made to cover the body's critical organs, making it one of the most effective medieval armor.

The entire body protection the armor offers covers the wearer's arms, legs, chest, waist, and head. Illustrious soldiers like Charles V of France and Joan of Arc donned plate armor during their campaigns.

In battle, particularly during the Hundred Years' War, the French army was renowned for wearing plate armor, believing it gave them the upper hand.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of plate armor in medieval combat. Compared to other types of armor, such as chainmail, it offered superior protection, drastically lowering the number of casualties on the battlefield.

Warriors could move more quickly and easily, thanks to the armor on the battlefield.

Using plate armor gave knights and soldiers much-needed confidence on the battlefield, making them a formidable force.

Leather Armor

a visual representation of leather armor

Leather armor was one of medieval warfare's earliest knight armor types. Ancient civilizations used It, including the Greeks, who wore leather for protection against arrows and blades.

All in all, the leather armor was constructed differently depending on the culture that wore it.

Typically, the design involved sewing together multiple layers of leather to create a reinforced material to protect against attacks.

Some cultures, such as the Vikings, would use boiled leather to make it more rigid and durable. Other designs involved studs or scales attached to the leather to prevent arrows or swords from puncturing the armor.

Famous battles associated with using leather armor include the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Leather armor had significant advantages in medieval warfare. It was a flexible and lightweight medieval armor, allowing soldiers to move freely and with less restriction.

Leather armor protected against swords, axes, and other weapons while being affordable and easy to produce.

Another advantage of leather armor was that it was relatively easy to repair, unlike different types of armor that required specialized skills to mend.

It provided valuable protection against weapons, making it a popular choice for soldiers throughout the centuries.

Although advances in armor technology have made it obsolete for modern warfare, leather armor remains an essential part of medieval history.

Gothic Armor

Gothic Armor

The history of Gothic armor, commonly referred to as black armor, this knight armor type dates back to the late 15th century. Gothic armor was an art form in addition to being primarily practical, unlike other armor styles. The goal of creating gothic armor was to make it as stunning and protective as possible.

Ultimately, the wealthiest and most elite warriors of the medieval period wore it, including knights and nobles. The armor, which encompassed the entire body from head to toe.

It resembled the Gothic pillars and arches in the time's art and architecture. The armor's surface was frequently decorated with complex embossed and engraved motifs.

Craftsmen produced gothic armor using "assembly," where metal rivets held individual plates together. Usually, the armor had several sections of the wearer's body. Gothic armor may also be customized, with various parts and extras like helmets and gauntlets available to the wearer.

A well-known conflict where King Richard III wore gothic armor was the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Spanish knights wore Gothic armor, used by many who fought in the New World during the Age of Exploration.

The significance of gothic armor in medieval warfare lies in its impressive design and the prestige associated with wearing it. It represented the pinnacle of medieval armor design and craftsmanship and symbolized wealth and power. Gothic armor demonstrated a knight's prowess and commitment to the ideals of chivalry.

Gambeson Armor

Gambeson armor, also known as an arming coat, is believed to be a knight armor type that originated in the early medieval period. It is made from padded material such as linen or wool. Also, it served as a base layer of protection for warriors and knights.

As armor technology evolved, the gambeson remained a crucial medieval armor. Warriors wore it beneath other types of armor. The design and construction of gambeson armor varied based on the warrior's need or the culture that produced it.

Gambeson Armor

Natural materials such as linen and wool allowed flexibility and breathability, making the gambeson a comfortable and light knight armor.

Famous battles associated with the Gambeson armor include the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where the English army wore this armor.

The army of William Wallace also used it during the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

However, the significance of gambeson armor in medieval warfare was two-fold. Firstly, it was an additional layer of protection that could prevent serious injuries from sword strikes, blows, or arrows.

Secondly, it could act as a cushion against the metal plates of other types of armor, preventing bruising and chafing. The lightweight medieval armor allowed for increased mobility and reduced fatigue on the battlefield. Over time, as armor technologies developed, gambeson armor lost its prominence.

Scale Armor

Scale armor dates back to ancient times, with examples found in East Asian cultures such as Japan and China. Various cultures later used it in medieval Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Scale armor takes its name from its design, consisting of small, overlapping metal scales sewn onto a fabric or leather base.

Scale armor

The construction of scale armor involved attaching small metal plates to a backing material and overlapping them.

Initially, the scales were of animal hide or bones, but later designs utilized metal. The scales were arranged in rows and attached with rings, cords, or rivets.

Scale armor was a popular knight armor type. Famous warriors associated with scale armor include the Varangian Guard. An elite force of Byzantine bodyguards and soldiers. The Vikings also used variations of scale armor, such as the lamellar armor used by the Rus Vikings.

Scale armor was particularly significant in medieval warfare. It provided better protection than chainmail and was a lightweight medieval armor. It also allowed for better air circulation between the scales, reducing the chance of overheating or overheating from the sun.

Finally, scale armor saw widespread use and was especially beneficial for soldiers in regions with hot and humid climates. Scale armor was an innovative medieval armor that provided excellent protection and flexibility to soldiers and warriors.

Its unique design, lightweight construction, and efficient protection made it a popular choice for medieval soldiers on the battlefield.

Lamellar Armor

Lamellar armor, also known as banded armor, is a historical armor used in multiple cultures worldwide, including Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The first examples of lamellar armor go back to ancient Persia and Assyria. Cavalry soldiers also wore it in China during the Tang Dynasty.

Also, the design of lamellar armor consisted of multiple small rectangular or square plates. They were held together by lacing or rivets. The plates could be of metal, bone, or horn, and the construction allowed them to overlap, providing good resistance against attacks.

Developers could also reinforce the armor with leather or cloth for extra durability.

One of the most famous types of armor during the Mongol empire was the lamellar armor. The Mongol Empire extensively used it during their famous invasion and conquest of Europe. Samurai warriors also used lamellar armor in Japan, commonly made from leather or traditional lacquered armor made of iron.

Lamellar armor provided numerous advantages on the battlefield. It effectively protected against cutting weapons and provided high mobility and flexibility to the wearer.

Additionally, lamellar armor was a light medieval armor than previous knight armor types, making it more comfortable to wear continuously. Ingenious and adaptable, lamellar armor offered superb protection and mobility for troops and warriors throughout history.

Lamellar armor

It was a popular choice for military conquest and warfare due to its distinctive design and lightweight construction. It was a crucial piece of armor technology on the battlefield for centuries.

The 14th-century armor, or lamellar armor, was one of the most famous types of armor during the Mongol empire. The armor was a compromise between chainmail and plate armor. Knights and nobles in northern Europe initially wore it before spreading it to other regions.

The design of plated mail armor involved using small steel plates for stiffening chainmail sections, sewn together using rivets. The plates covered important bodily areas like the shoulders, back, and chest. Gauntlets and helmets, which were distinct pieces of armor made to match the style of the plated mail armor, might also be included in the ensemble.

King Henry V of England wore plated mail armor during the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. King Henry is one of the well-known fighters linked with this type of armor. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, the armor was still used, especially by soldiers and archers who wore lighter variants. The significance of plated mail armor in medieval warfare was its balance of protection and flexibility.

It provided better resistance against cutting weapons than chainmail while being less expensive than full-plate armor. Plated mail armor allowed more significant movement and agility than plate armor, contributing to a warrior's effectiveness on the battlefield. These things made it one of the most effective medieval armors.

The armor played an essential role in medieval warfare. The armor became obsolete due to the development of new technologies and weapons.


In conclusion, different types of medieval armor played a significant role in protecting warriors and knights during battles. The evolution of medieval armor over time led to the creation of sophisticated defense systems. Chainmail, plate, leather, and Gothic armor were among the most iconic types of armor that influenced medieval warfare.

Chainmail armor provided reliable protection and was flexible and durable. Chainmail armor played a significant role in famous battles such as the Battle of Hastings and the Crusades. Plate armor provides better protection against various weapons. Leather armor was affordable, lightweight, and easy to repair, providing valuable protection to soldiers.

Lastly, Gothic armor, a functional art form, had many armor styles and was predominantly designed to display wealth and social status but also provided protection in battle. The different types of armor used during the medieval period significantly contributed to the outcome of battles and wars.