what did knights wear

Beneath the Plate: What Did Knights Wear Under Their Armor?

Knights in medieval times are known for their iconic armor and heroic feats on the battlefield. However, there is more to a knight’s ensemble than just their visible armor. What did knights wear under their armor to ensure maximum protection and comfort during battle?

In this section, we will explore the hidden truths of medieval knights and their attire. We will take a closer look at the various layers of protection and clothing worn by knights, shedding light on what lies beneath the plate armor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding what knights wore under their armor is crucial to understanding medieval warfare.
  • Knights wore multiple layers of protective and comfortable clothing beneath their visible armor.
  • The different layers of clothing included paddingchainmail, and an assortment of accessories.
  • Primary sources, such as manuscripts and artwork, provide valuable insights into medieval clothing practices.

The Basics of Knight Armor

Medieval warfare was a brutal and dangerous affair, and knights needed effective protection to stay alive on the battlefield. Their armor was their lifeline, providing much-needed protection from swords, axes, and other deadly weapons.

Knight armor consisted of several components, each with a specific purpose. The most noticeable part was the plate armor, which covered most of the body and was made of interlocking metal plates. Plate armor was designed to deflect blows and protect against thrusts from spears and other long weapons.

However, plate armor was not the only layer of protection. Knights also wore padded undergarments, such as the gambeson, to cushion blows and absorb impacts. Chainmail was another popular type of armor worn by knights, providing flexibility and extra protection against edged weapons.

The Gambeson: A Knight’s First Layer of Defense

The gambeson was a padded undergarment worn by knights under their plate armor. It consisted of multiple layers of fabric, usually linen, wool, or canvas, and was quilted to keep the padding evenly distributed. The gambeson was designed to absorb the impact of blows and reduce the wearer’s risk of injury.

The gambeson was an essential part of a knight’s armor, providing the first line of defense against enemy attacks. In fact, some knights would wear several gambesons at once for added protection.

Chainmail: Flexible Armor for Added Protection

Chainmail was a type of armor made up of interlocking metal rings, usually made of steel or iron. Many knights wore chainmail underneath their plate armor, providing extra protection against edged weapons and allowing for greater mobility.

Chainmail was also commonly worn on its own by lower-ranking soldiers, as it was cheaper and easier to produce than plate armor.

Overall, the combination of plate armor, chainmail, and padded undergarments provided knights with a formidable level of protection on the battlefield. Understanding the basics of knight armor is crucial to gaining insights into medieval warfare and the lives of those who fought in it.

The Gambeson: A Knight’s First Layer of Defense

In medieval times, knights wore a variety of protective attire in battle. One of the most important pieces of armor was the gambeson, a padded undergarment that provided the knight protection against various types of attacks. It was the first layer worn by the knight, and it played a crucial role in keeping them safe during combat.

The gambeson was typically made of linen or wool and was quilted with rows of stitching. It was designed to fit snugly to the body and offered protection from both blunt force and cutting weapons. The padding helped to absorb the impact of blows, while the multiple layers of fabric prevented penetration from sharp objects.

Knights wore the gambeson under their chainmail or plate armor. The gambeson acted as a cushion between the metal plates and the knight’s body, reducing the risk of bruising and injury. The padding also helped to distribute the weight of the armor more evenly, making it easier for the knight to move and fight.

Furthermore, the gambeson was an important component of a knight’s overall protection. It was often worn with other protective garments, such as padded leggings and gauntlets, for added defense. The gambeson was also versatile in that it could be worn alone in less dangerous situations or combined with other layers for greater protection.

In conclusion, the gambeson was a vital piece of armor that knights wore beneath their protective gear. Its padded construction provided protection against various types of attacks, and its versatility made it an essential part of a knight’s overall protection. Understanding the role of the gambeson helps give us a clearer picture of medieval warfare and the measures taken to protect oneself in battle.

The Hauberk: A Knight’s Chainmail Shirt

Chainmail was a popular type of armor worn by knights for its flexibility and superior protection. However, it was also heavy and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods, which is why it was typically worn over a padded undergarment.

The hauberk was a long chainmail shirt that covered the knight from the neck down to the knees. It was made up of thousands of interlocking rings and served as the main body defense. The hauberk was a versatile piece of armor that could be worn on its own or in combination with other protective layers.

The construction of the hauberk varied depending on its time period and region. Earlier versions were made of riveted rings that were butted together, while later versions used riveted rings with overlapping ends. Some hauberks had reinforced areas around the elbows and knees, and others had sleeves that extended beyond the hands to provide extra protection.

The hauberk was a critical piece of knight attire and was often passed down as a family heirloom. It was also a status symbol, with the number of rings used indicating the wealth and social standing of the wearer.

While the hauberk offered excellent protection, it was not without its weaknesses. It was vulnerable to crushing blows and blunt force trauma, which could cause injury to the wearer. Additionally, the rings could become bent or misaligned, compromising the armor’s effectiveness. Therefore, knights were trained to regularly inspect and maintain their chainmail to ensure it was in working order.

The hauberk was an integral part of a knight’s armor and played a significant role in protecting them on the battlefield. Its versatility and effectiveness made it a staple of medieval warfare and a defining feature of the knightly image.

The Hauberk: A Knight’s Chainmail Shirt

The hauberk was an essential part of a knight’s armor, consisting of a long chainmail shirt that provided protection to the upper body. The hauberk was typically made of interlocking rings and was designed to protect against slashing, stabbing, and cutting attacks.

While the design of the hauberk varied, most included sleeves that extended to the wrist and a skirt that fell to mid-thigh. The length of the hauberk could vary, with some knights wearing shorter versions that only covered the torso. The rings used in the hauberk were often made of iron and were tightly woven together to provide maximum protection.

The hauberk was a versatile piece of armor that could be worn in a variety of ways. It could be worn with other protective layers, such as a gambeson or arming doublet, to provide extra insulation and cushioning. In some cases, the hauberk was worn under plate armor to provide further protection.

The hauberk also had regional variations, with examples such as the “Byzantine” hauberk and the “Norman” hauberk. The Byzantine hauberk was made of larger rings and provided more flexibility and range of motion, while the Norman hauberk was made of smaller rings and provided more comprehensive protection.

The hauberk was an important piece of protection for medieval knights and offered them a significant advantage in combat. While it was not always visible beneath their armor, the hauberk was the foundation for a knight’s defense.

Plate Armor: The Iconic Knight’s Protection

When we think of medieval knights, the image of a fully armored warrior comes to mind. Plate armor was the epitome of protection, covering the entire body from head to toe with metal plates, and was the favored armor of knights during the Middle Ages.

Made from iron or steel, plate armor was heavy and often uncomfortable to wear, but it provided full-body protection against various types of attacks, from arrows to swords.

The first plate armor appeared in the 14th century, consisting of small metal plates sewn onto a cloth or leather garment. Over time, the plates became larger and more numerous, forming a solid shell around the knight’s body.

Plate armor was expensive and often custom-made for each individual knight, taking into account their stature and fighting style. A skilled armorer would spend months crafting a single set of armor, hammering and shaping each plate to fit the wearer perfectly.

Components of Plate Armor

Plate armor was made up of several components, including:

Component Purpose
Bascinet A helmet that protected the head and neck
Breastplate A plate that covered the chest and stomach
Cuisse A plate that covered the thighs
Greaves Plates that covered the shins
Pauldron Plates that covered the shoulders
Vambrace Plates that covered the forearms

In addition to these components, knights wore chainmail beneath their plate armor for added protection against piercing attacks. The hauberk, a long chainmail shirt, was often worn as the first layer of defense.

Wearing Plate Armor

Wearing plate armor was a complex process, requiring the assistance of a squire or page. The armor was so heavy that a knight could not put it on by themselves.

The first layer was the gambeson, a thick padded undergarment that provided cushioning and prevented chafing. The knight would then step into his leggings, which were made of chainmail or padded material. The cuisse, greaves, and vambrace were then strapped onto the legs and arms.

The breastplate and backplate were then lifted onto the knight’s shoulders and fastened together at the sides. The pauldrons were then attached to the breastplate, followed by the helmet.

Once fully armored, a knight would be nearly invulnerable, but also nearly immobile. The weight of the armor made it difficult to move quickly or mount a horse without assistance.

Despite the challenges of wearing plate armor, knights were willing to bear its weight for the sake of protection on the battlefield, earning their status as formidable warriors of medieval times.

Padding and Comfort: The Importance of Undergarments

While knights’ armor provided them with a significant amount of protection, it was also heavy and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. This is where undergarments came in to play, providing an extra layer of padding and comfort.

The materials used for undergarments varied depending on the knight’s personal preference and the climate they were in. Some knights preferred linen or cotton while others opted for wool or silk.

One common type of padding was the arming doublet, which was a thickly padded jacket worn under the armor. This helped to absorb sweat and reduce friction, preventing chafing and injury. Other knights wore padded leggings, called mail chausses, to protect their legs from bruising and to provide extra support.

Arming caps were yet another important undergarment worn by knights. These were essentially tight-fitting hats made of padded fabric or chainmail. They were worn underneath the helmet to provide additional cushioning and to prevent the metal from rubbing against the skin.

Overall, undergarments were an essential part of medieval knight attire, providing comfort and protection to knights during long and grueling battles.

Accessories and Additional Layers

Beneath a knight’s armor, there were often multiple layers of clothing and accessory items that added extra protection and functionality. These additional layers were critical in ensuring maximum protection and comfort for the knight during long battles and campaigns.

One of the most common additional layers were arming caps, which were worn beneath the helmet to lessen the impact of blows. Chainmail hoods, known as coifs, were also worn under the helmet to provide protection to the neck and shoulders.

Another important accessory was the mail chausses, also known as mail leggings. These were worn over stockings and offered protection to the lower limbs. Mail mittens were also worn over the hands to protect the knight’s fingers and palms.

Accessory Item Function
Arming Caps Lessen the impact of blows to the head
Coifs Provide protection to the neck and shoulders
Mail Chausses Protect the lower limbs
Mail Mittens Protect the fingers and palms

Additional layers of clothing were also worn to add extra protection or for added comfort. For example, a linen shirt or tunic was often worn beneath the gambeson to provide an additional layer of padding and prevent chafing. Similarly, hose made of linen or wool were worn beneath the mail chausses to protect the legs from rubbing against the mail.

While often hidden beneath the armor, these accessory items and additional layers were critical in ensuring that knights were well-equipped for battle. They provided added protection, comfort, and functionality that allowed knights to perform at their best.

Functional Fashion: Knights’ Clothing Choices

When we think of knights, we often picture them clad in their iconic armor from head to toe. However, outside of battle, knights also wore a variety of functional and stylish garments that were designed to suit their needs and the demands of medieval fashion.

One such article of clothing was the tunic, a knee-length garment made of wool or linen. Tunics were a staple in the wardrobes of knights, as they were versatile and practical. They could be worn on their own or with other layers, such as hose or chausses, depending on the weather and activity. Tunics were also embellished with various designs, such as heraldic symbols or decorative stitching, to showcase the knight’s status and style.

In addition to tunics, knights wore hose, which were long stockings that covered their legs. Hose were typically made of wool, linen, or silk, and came in a variety of colors and patterns. Knights often wore padded undergarments, such as arming caps or aketons, beneath their hose to provide extra comfort and protection. These undergarments also helped to reduce friction and prevent chafing, particularly during long periods of horseback riding or combat.

Another important accessory for knights was the belt, which served both practical and symbolic purposes. Knights carried their weapons and other tools on their belts, making them readily accessible during battle. Belts were also adorned with elaborate buckles and designs, indicating the knight’s rank and status. Some knights even wore ornate girdles, which were decorative belts that symbolized their prowess and wealth.

Overall, knights’ clothing choices reflected the functional and fashionable demands of medieval society. Their attire was designed to protect and serve, while also showcasing their status and style. By understanding the clothing choices of knights, we can gain a deeper insight into the fascinating world of medieval fashion and culture.

Uncovering the Truth: What Historical Records Reveal

Historical records, such as manuscripts, artworks, and even grave sites, provide valuable insights into the clothing practices of medieval knights. Through these sources, we can uncover hidden truths about what knights wore beneath their protective gear.

One of the earliest depictions of a knight wearing a gambeson under his armor comes from the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Created in the 11th century, this embroidered panel tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England. In one scene, a knight is shown wearing a padded garment that closely resembles a gambeson.

In addition to the Bayeux Tapestry, many manuscripts from the medieval period provide detailed illustrations of knights and their attire. For example, the Maciejowski Bible, created in the 13th century, features many depictions of knights wearing chainmail and plate armor over padded garments.

Grave sites have also revealed valuable information about what knights wore beneath their armor. For example, the remains of a knight buried in Germany in the 14th century were found wearing a shirt made of silk and linen, which was likely worn as a protective layer beneath his armor.

Overall, historical records provide a wealth of information about the clothing practices of medieval knights. By studying these sources, we can gain a better understanding of the hidden truths behind knight attire and the role it played in medieval warfare.


Medieval knights have long been shrouded in mystery and myth, but the truth about their armor and attire is just as fascinating as the legends that surround them. Through exploring what knights wore beneath their armor, we gain a better understanding of the complexities of medieval warfare and the importance of protection in battle.

From the padded gambeson to the iconic plate armor, knights relied on multiple layers of protection to keep them safe on the battlefield. But their undergarments were just as vital for comfort and mobility. The various types of padding used reduced friction, absorbed sweat, and prevented chafing, ensuring that knights were able to move and fight without hindrance.

Additionally, knights’ clothing choices outside of their armor were just as practical and functional, yet still stylish. Tunics, hose, and other garments provided comfort and warmth, while still allowing for ease of movement.

Exploring historical records, evidence and artwork shows us that knights took their armor and undergarments seriously. It was a matter of life and death. Equally important was the fact that their attire was a reflection of their social status, wealth, and power. In modern times, we can appreciate the beauty and intricacy of these pieces, which remain impressive feats of craftsmanship.

In conclusion, what knights wore beneath their armor reveals hidden truths about medieval times, allowing us to paint a fuller picture of this fascinating period in history. By learning about their clothing, we can gain insights and appreciate the complex layers of protection and functionality that kept these warriors safe and victorious on the battlefield.


Q: What did knights wear under their armor?

A: Knights wore several layers of protective garments under their armor, including a padded undergarment called a gambeson, chainmail, and additional layers of padding for comfort.

Q: What was the purpose of the gambeson?

A: The gambeson served as a knight’s first layer of defense. It was a padded undergarment designed to absorb the impact of blows and provide protection against various types of attacks.

Q: What is chainmail?

A: Chainmail was a flexible type of armor made up of small metal rings linked together. It provided additional protection and flexibility to knights during battle.

Q: What is a hauberk?

A: A hauberk was a long chainmail shirt worn by knights. It provided extensive protection to the upper body and was a crucial part of their armor ensemble.

Q: What is plate armor?

A: Plate armor was the iconic and heavily protective gear associated with knights. It consisted of individual metal plates that covered different parts of the body, providing full-body protection.

Q: Why were undergarments and padding important for knights?

A: Undergarments and padding were essential for knights wearing heavy armor. They helped reduce friction, absorb sweat, and prevent chafing, ensuring comfort during battle.

Q: Did knights wear any accessories beneath their armor?

A: Yes, knights wore various accessories and additional layers beneath their armor, such as arming caps, mail chausses, and other protective garments that added extra layers of defense.

Q: What did knights wear outside of their armor?

A: Outside of their armor, knights wore clothing such as tunics, hose, and other garments that were both stylish and functional. These choices reflected their social status and the practicality of their attire.

Q: What do historical records reveal about knight attire?

A: Historical records, such as manuscripts and artwork, provide insights into what knights wore under their armor. These primary sources give us a glimpse into medieval clothing practices and help us understand the hidden truths of knight attire.