The medieval surcoat
The surcoat is a sleeveless tunic worn by knights over chain mail or armor during the Middle Ages. This piece of clothing was characterized by its bright colors and was generally adorned with the coats of arms of the knight who wore it. The type of fabric and decoration showed the power and influence of the knight who wore it. In addition, on the battlefield, it could be a juicy and prestigious loot. Its main function was to prevent the armor from being very exposed to the elements, thus improving its durability.
However, with the appearance of plate armor, around the fifteenth century, the surcoat fell into disuse. In the case of women, during the Middle Ages, surcoats were used as a work uniform or, in the case of noblewomen, as a sign of power and prestige. However, this last case was less frequent than its use by men.
Clothing of Orders and Lineages
Religious orders such as the Templars, the Knights of Malta or the Teutons were easily recognizable by the surcoats worn by their members. The warriors of these orders, Christian knights dedicated to the propagation or defense of the Christian faith, wore their most significant symbols in surcoats.
Also in the medieval court, kings and nobles were eager to present their coats of arms in this type of pieces. There were both for combat and gala, used at parties and banquets. Kings such as Robert I of Scotland or Henry V of England were some of the monarchs who are remembered for their surcoats, as well as nobles such as the Prince of Wales.
Types of surcoats
All these garments are characterized by being wide in size, so that they fit with belts of different widths. As for the shapes of the neck, they used to be peaked and round. The most luxurious, were accompanied by a piece of cloth that adorned the neck.
All surcoats lack sleeves, to facilitate mobility for soldiers in chainmail or armor. The length of these pieces of cloth could vary, but the most common were low-cut (almost at the ankles) and high-cut (above the knees), more comfortable in combat.
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