Quilted Armor, Gambeson and Aketon History

MoonWhispers’ QuiltArmor® is a 21st Century combination of metal chains and fabric plates, paying homage to Medieval Armor. When you think of Armor, it is unlikely that your mind goes to quilts or quilted material, unless you are an armor historian ( or into Renaissance re-enactments!) Quilted armor, in some form or fashion, has been used under armor worldwide over 1000 years for personal defense against blunt weapons and to lessen the shock of edged weapons against metal armor.

Do a search on quilted armor and you will see way more information than I can hope to show, but the links below are a start.

Medieval quilted armor gambeson with suit of metal armor
On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this suit of armor shows the quilted armor known as the gambeson. Click photo to go to the Met’s page on this armor.

In Europe’s Middle Ages, having some sort of quilted jacket or vest, called a “gambeson” (or “aketon“) was essential in preparing for battle. A gambeson would be worn for protection, and consisted of layers of linen or wool fabric quilted together, often stuffed with scrap fabric or horsehair for added padding and protection. It would then be covered with plate armor, or chain mail if the person could afford it. These quilted layers under armor would act as shock absorbers for the blunt force given by blows. Sometimes additional quilted garments were layered on top of metal armor as they could provide protection against arrows. For a fascinating read on this, see this link or this link.

The Japanese had their own type of quilted armor. See the Samurai armor below, from the 18th Century as presented by the Metropolitan Gallery of Art. Notice the heavy quilted layers combined with armored plating. Clicking this photo will bring you to the Met’s page, with further photos.

Samurai armor with heavy quilted layers combined with armored plating.

Also note below an example of Japanese “kikko” (“the shell of the tortoise”)which are small hexagon shaped plates of iron or hardened leather. They were used in the construction of  Japanese armor in feudal Japan. These could be worn on the outside, but were often sewn underneath layers of fabric.

By Samuraiantiqueworld – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15244659

Note the similarities between my QuiltArmor® interpretation of quilted plates of fabric linked together by chain mail links below.

Moonwhispers™ makes reversible QuiltArmor® vests and jackets, featured here is the red side with a black reverse
Reversible MoonWhispers™ QuiltArmor® vest in red and black (red back shown)

The next time you think of armor, don’t forget the softer side- the quilted gamesons, aketons and the hidden kikko of armor long past!