Mail sleeves in the Royal Armouries Collection at the Tower of London. © Lonnie Colson 2017.
I currently wear a pair of tailored mail sleeves created by Nick Checksfield. Nick has been making and restoring mail since 1992. He is currently an educator at Windsor Castle but has worked in the past as a mail restorer at the Wallace Collection. Nick has also been seen as a mail subject expert in documentaries such as "Going Medieval" with Mike Loades. Nick has handled the originals in the Royal Armouries Collection at the Tower of London. They originals are constructed of 7mm riveted rings and have broad gussets and armpits. The arms taper down to a narrow wrist and feature a slight angle at the elbow to allow for better movement. The edges of the gussets and cuffs are still bound with a dark brown leather. My sleeves are constructed of 6mm mild steel round riveted rings with alternating rows of solid punched rings.
My mail standard, or collar, was built by Mark at Cap-a-pie. I personally added rows of round riveted brass rings to the top edge. It is closed in the back with a hinge clasp designed by Josh Davis of Davis Reproductions, based on period artwork and surviving examples.
My mail fauld, or skirt, is also constructed of 6mm mild steel round riveted rings with alternating rows of solid punched rings to which I personally added several rows of matching brass rings.
History of Maille
Maille, or mail, was probably invented by the Celts circa 3rd century B.C. It was manufactured all over Europe; however, towns such as Cologne and Nuremberg were widely regarded as specialists. A single, knee-length mail shirt, or hauberk, could contain as many as 50,000 links and require up to 100 days to construct. To some extent, mail could be 'made to measure' in order to fit under the upper and sometimes lower cannons of plate armour.
Mail offered good overall defense. It was very flexible and was effective against cutting and slashing blows. It was less effective against piercing and percussive blows, such as arrows and maces. For that reason, mail was normally worn over quilted garments to absorb some of the blunt force trauma.
During the 14th century, plate armour began to supplement mail. Eventually plate armour became more enclosing and supplanted mail as the primary form of armour. In Italian states, many men-at-arms continued to wear full mail shirts in conjunction with faulds, or skirts, under their harness. Men-at-arms in many other regions abandoned the hauberk and began to use lighter-weight sections of mail, sometimes stitched to an arming garment.
Mail sleeves (1475), Eur. Object number III.1425 in the Royal Armouries. 7mm mail shoulder gussets tapering to narrow close wrist with angle for elbow.
Mail sleeves (1475), Eur. Object numbers III.1427 and 1428 in the Royal Armouries. 6mm mail shoulder gussets tapering to narrow close wrist with angle for elbow.
Mail history information obtained from the Royal Armouries.