Bracers – Vambraces

Forearm Protection from the Olden Days

Regardless of costume, at some point you are going to buy a pair of bracers or vambraces.  Now, for the purposes of this article, I am going to use the words interchangeably.  For a quick definition though:  Bracers are a guard for an archers arm while Vambraces are more heavily armored guards for the forearms of a warrior.  Either way, unless you are portraying a queen or a lady-in-waiting you are going to bust out the bracer at some point.

Bracers come in hundreds of styles shapes and colors.  Most are leather.  In fact except for metal or chain maile, leather is the most popular material for bracer construction.  But even the leather that is used varies.  As you walk through the leather shops at the faire, notice the differences in the grades of leather.  Most of the bracers that you see are costume-grade only.  These costume-grade pieces will range from pliable, easy to wear, flexible leather construction to rigid inflexible bracers that have the look of leather armor without the complete protection.  Armor grade, and the vendors can tell you if it is armor grade or not, is going to be very thick and very rigid.  It is not going to move at all except to allow you slide your hand inside.  If the stacks of bracers are laying flat on the table waiting to be tied around your arm… not armor grade.

When you are buying bracers, here are a few things to look for and a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are you looking for in your bracers?  – Are you wanting close to armor grade?  Are you just looking for something pretty to put on your arm?
  • Colors – Find the color that matches your garb.  You don’t have to go with black or brown.  The leather crafters on the Renaissance Faire circuit can accommodate almost any color in almost any material.  Don’t be afraid to ask them if they can do a custom job for you, most will be glad to.
  • Design – Just like color, you don’t have to buy the first design at the first booth with bracers that you come to.  You have options.  And bracers come with almost every design you have ever thought of:  Dragons, skulls and bones, Irish hounds – almost anything you can think of including basic geometrics.  And again, if you don’t see it but you love the way that one leather crafter works ask them if they can make a custom pair for you.
  • TRY THEM ON – if at all possible, try on the bracers before you buy.  They are all different and each shop is going to cut them a little different and they are going to wear a little different.  Make sure that you can move your hands freely.  Make sure that they don’t restrict the movement of your elbow.  Length and width is a big deal with bracers and again, leather merchants can usually help you with special orders.

Now you have purchased a set of bracers.

  • Don’t tie them to tight but make sure they are not going to roll around your arms either.
  • Leather ties should knot at the elbow, not at the wrist.
  • The first time you wear them, expect for your arms to sweat a little more.
  • Depending on how they were finished, you will probably have leather detritus on your sleeves when you take off the bracers at the end of the day.

Buy some bracers, either basic or elaborate.  They are a great addition to any costume. And on second thought a I think a queen sporting some armor grade bracers might be very cool.