Armors have important uses be it on the battlefield or in official ceremonies. When we think of knights and warriors, more often than not, we imagine them in steel armor from head to toe while wielding a long sword and bonus if they are riding an armored horse, too. It’s not entirely wrong, but it wasn’t the only one. In fact, some of the early pieces of armors made use of whatever materials they had available— steel, bronze, iron, fur, bones, even plant fibers. These historical protective suits, although they greatly differ from one place to another, were all unique and fascinating in their own ways. Let us give you some other images of armors that you could think of the next time:

Filippo Negroli, Parade Helmet of Emperor Charles V, 1533 Patrimonio Nacional, Real Armería, Madrid


Bearded Helmet Of Charles V

What else is there to do when you have to wear a helmet but still want to show off your curly golden hair and beard? Perhaps that was Charles V’s dilemma when he asked the famous Italian armorer Filippo Negroli for help. During the 16th century, he was known as the best and most skilled armorer and probably remained so in history. The brilliant solution was to incorporate the Holy Roman Emperor’s golden locks into the design. As a result, Negroli created an armor that looked like the steel version of himself. The helmet was a parade helmet and not actually used for combat and was one of Charles V’s many possession of beautiful pieces of armor, a symbol of his wealth and power.

One thing is for sure ever since the creation of the bearded helmet: No more bad hair day for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V!

Winged Polish Hussars

Polish Hussar’s half-armor, mid-17th century (National Museum in Kraków). (bazylek100CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Assembled by Serbian Prince Lazar in 1389 to meet the invading Muslin Ottoman Army of Sultan Murad, these majestic knights were not only known for their wins one battle after the other, making them one of the most effective cavalries the world has ever gazed upon, but their armors were also remarkable. They adapted the segmented armor of the Roman Legions, extending to their things, arms, and calves. However, the real highlight was the dyed eagle, ostrich, or crane feathers attached to their backpack, giving them their signature winged look. There were debates on the real purpose of these wings. Some say they were to make noises to rattle enemy horses. Others believed they were protections against the lassoes of the Asian horsemen. There were also some who argued that they were plainly an intimidation tactic. You know, like the enemies thinking they had to fight these otherworldly winged knights. Whatever the real purpose of these wings was, they seem to have worked: they killed some 11,000 Swedes at the Battle of Kircholm, 35,000 Russian-Swedish troops at the Battle of Klushino, and 40,000 Crimean Tartars in Poland despite being greatly outnumbered, to name a few battles that they won. (If you want to know more about them beyond their majestic armors, we got that covered here.)

Kiribati’s Porcupinefish Helmets

Armor and helmet, Gilbert Islands
Armor and helmet, Gilbert Islands, late 1800s, woven coconut fiber, blowfish skin (Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As Hakai Magazine wrote, “Kiribati’s porcupinefish helmets were more about drama than defense,” and we’re here for that drama.

Famed for their fierceness in battles, the Kiribati (pronounced Kee-ruh-bas) men of the Republic of Kiribati would dress from head-to-toe in coconut fiber and stingray skin armors while carrying wooden swords lined with sharks’ teeth. The helmet was of spiky porcupine fish that were captured while puffed up and agitated to retain its spiky skin. These helmets were locally called ‘te barantauti.’

You might be thinking, “What sort of protection do a spiky fish skin and some sewn coconut fiber offer?”