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The term "Brigandine" denotes an armour constructed by lining the inside of a cloth or leather garment with rigid plates. This armour may be said to be the reverse of Scale.
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The plates may be similar to scale in being of identical shape and size. Alternatively, the internal plates may be of varied sizes and shapes - based on a combination of fashion and attempts to maximize protection.
While Brigandine is to be found worldwide, the first to use this type of armour seems to have been China. It was also the place where Brigandine remained in fashion the longest.
Though the origin date for it's use is unavailable, Brigandine certainly appears in Chinese manuals of the twelfth century. In fact, by this time, the identical type is found in Korean manuals as well. Further, while in the rest of the world Brigandine began to come into its own in the thirteenth century, and was on the way out by the fifteenth, this early "Sino-Korean" Brigandine remained in use, structurally unchanged, into the nineteenth century.
The outer cloth garment provided a rich source of identification of rank, station, and wealth. Conversely, in China and Korea, the Brigandine itself became of importance as uniform and status symbol. Thus, a garment quickly came into use, and remained as long as the armoured one, which was stylistically the same as the armoured garment and was decorated on the outside with rivets so as to look as if it were in fact a Brigandine. This "pretend Brigandine" was worn, commonly padded, as a light armour or for ceremonial purposes.
As described under "Scale" (under "Reverse Brigandine"), the plates of the "Sino-Korean" Brigandine are three to four inches (seven and a half to nine and a half centimeters) long, rectangular, and have two holes punched in the center. They are lined up horizontally as well as vertically. The plates strongly overlap downwards and there is some overlap sideways. This side overlap is from the center outward (both in front and in back).
While the Korean and the Chinese armours are identical structurally, they differ in style of garment. The garment of the Korean Brigandine, as most, if not all, Korean armour, is made in one piece. It is a wide, un-tailored, knee length tunic, with broad half-sleeves, that opens in front.
Chinese (left) and Korean (right) Warriors
The Chinese garment, on the other hand, is (in its complete form) of five separate parts. A vest which opens in the front is the central feature. This vest reaches to the hips but is split at the sides below the waist. The front below the waist is also unprotected. The vest is commonly supplemented by a square section at the front, which attaches at the waist and reaches a bit below the bottom of the vest. Roughly triangular segments also supplement the vest at the underarms. This is worn with pauldrons, which are either rectangular or leaf-shaped, and a two-sectioned skirting. Sometimes the underarm and groin sections are omitted, leaving an armour of three parts, a vest, pauldrons, and skirting.
On both, the Chinese and the Korean garment, the torso is protected by separate front and back rows of plates. The front and back do not overlap.
The Chinese vest has a seam or buttons down the sides which expressly separate front and back. The plates, however, come quite close to meeting and the separate underarm panels (which are generally also lined with plates) supplement to close the gap.
On the Korean tunic there is a wide gap between plates at the sides. This gap closes when a sash is wrapped about the wearer's waist. The sides of the garment then bunch so that the front and back plates meet. The bunched fabric provides further padding to the sides.
The Pauldrons and skirting of the Chinese garment are similarly of Brigandine, to protect the limbs. The groin panel is also of Brigandine. In addition, the Pauldrons often have a set of large hinged plates at the shoulder for extra protection.
Mongolian Stiff-Leather Brigandine
Similar hinged plates are common at the shoulder of the Korean tunic as well. In addition, half sized scales line the inside of the shoulder, and scales, like those at the torso, often line the skirts of the tunic to protect the legs.
By the fourteenth century, Persian illustrations show a Brigandine vest which is identical in styling to the Chinese. This vest, however, is never accompanied by the supplementary underarm and groin panels. More common is a slightly different vest. This one is of a uniform waist length and opens either in front (see first illustration on this page), on the sides, or with an overlap. A Brigandine "breast and back" was also worn. This is constructed of a front section and back section which are buckled at the sides and shoulders. Often, the body defense was worn without other Brigandine armour at all, but was instead supplemented by pauldrons and skirting of some combination of lamellar, scale or bands. While Brigandine pauldrons and skirting in Persia are basically of the same style as the Chinese, the pauldrons do not seem to have the three upper plates.
Structurally, much of the Persian Brigandine was the same as the above described Chinese, sometimes it was not. One of the identified styles is similar in construction to the three hole scales (see "Armours of Scale"). Other styles were used but, often, what they were must be considered conjectural (generally based on, often quite detailed, illustrations). One such is long, horizontal bands (similar to the armour of bands or some of the simpler European Brigandines).
A separate, very distinctive style of Brigandine was worn by the Mongols and appears for some time after their invasion in Persian art (illustrated above, right). This armour differs from most Brigandine in that, while others are made of garment weight materials and (apart from the plate lining) are essentially ordinary garments, this Brigandine consists of two sections of heavy (belt type) leather.
These sections are two sides, attached to each other permanently in back and opening in front. They extend from the shoulder down to the knee. The two sides are joined from the top to the waist, where they taper into two skirt sections, making the inner leg and middle of the body below the waist vulnerable.
There are two metal disks, which reinforce the armor on the outside, at the chest, one over each side. Inside, the leather is lined with long metal bands.
This armour comes with separate pauldrons and a gorget. The gorget, like the rest of the armour, is of plate-lined, heavy leather.
The pauldrons are leaf shaped and similarly lined with bands. At the shoulder, there is a metal disc, which is on the outside of the pauldron.
One final type of Brigandine worthy of notice is that worn in India (illustrated left). It is a Brigandine of the ordinary type (made of garment weight materials with internal plates), worn as a short jacket (covering the hips) with short sleeves. What makes it unique is that it seems to have always, or almost always, been worn open at the front (clasped only at the waist). To cover the open front a long bib of overlapping plates was worn, with Mirrors completing the ensamble. This armour was common in the 15th and 16th century.
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Articles and Illustrations by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.
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