Adapting Early Style Helmets for SCA Fighting

by Sir Andras Salamandra

The biggest difficulty in using authentic early period armor in SCA fighting is that our regulations insist on armor that our historical counterparts did not use. Perhaps the most prominent example is that of the full helm. This article is designed to assist you in disguising an SCA-legal helm to give the illusion of wearing an authentic e.p. helm. The main problem in creating an authentic looking helm is hiding the parts of the helm that should not exist.

For example, the Norman/Anglo-Saxon helms depicted in the Bayeaux Tapestry are an open-faced helm with a nasal, and protect only the back of the head, and the neck. We need to hide the faceplate, and the bottom half of the helm. However, we have an easy answer in this case. If we make the helm so that the bottom half is recessed a quarter-inch at the seam joining ht bottom and top half of the helm, we can hang mail avontail from the helm ins such a way that it looks like we are wearing a coif and a helm. In place of the mail, leather could be used for a similar effect. If neither leather or mail is appropriate, and your persona should have long hair, fasten wig pieces to light leather to simulate long hair (fig. 1). The faceplate bars can be made of blued steel or painted black. In addition to reducing glare, they will become 'invisible'.

Figure 2 shows an Avar from around 800-850 a.d. with mail covering the face and neck. Figure 3 shows how to do it SCA style. The same idea could be used for the Norman helmet above, without covering the face.

Some of the Danish helms had eye-pieces which covered the upper face. Such a piece could be used, with bars covering the lower face. A Saracen might fasten a turban onto his helm and wrap similar material around the faceplate area. Cheek pieces make the job easier, as they hide most of the barred faceplate. A highly ornate nasal will distract the eye from the bar area, giving the illusion of an open-faced helm.

In fact, one can disguise the helm so well that it appears that no helm is being worn. I am working on a close fitting, barred-face helm which will be covered by a wig (fig. 4 &5). The wig will be limed and combed back to resemble a lion's mane, and a big, drooping mustache will be visible hanging out through the faceplate. The result should look like one of the Gauls described so dramatically by Caesar (fit. 6). A Scythian or Sarmatian might use the same idea and cover the top with a Phrygian cap and add moustache and beard (fig. 7).

A little imagination can go a long way toward making an SCA helmet look historical without sacrificing safety.

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