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Viking Leather Armor – The History, Styles, and Appeal

The Viking Era was a time during the Middle Ages characterized by battles, colonization, and conquest. It was a time when protection was invaluable, and evidence of their armor indicates this. There are many interesting facets to Viking leather armor which I will describe here.

Viking leather armor was protective equipment worn for battle. It originated in the 8th century and is replicated today for cosplay. Today Viking leather armor is made from suede or genuine leather and comes in pieces for the torso, shoulders, arms, and legs. Styles include LARP, Skyrim, Norse, and Celtic.

Have you ever wondered how protective leather armor might be? Let’s explore more about Viking leather armor and its appeal.

What Is Viking Leather Armor?

Viking leather armor was the protective equipment Vikings wore for battle because iron was too expensive for some. Leather armor was made from reindeer, cattle, or horse hides because the Vikings ate a great deal of meat and had the skins handy for making armor. Viking leather armor consisted of:

  1. Shields
  2. Chest Plates
  3. Shoulder Plates
  4. Leg Plates
  5. Helmets

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • The History of Viking Leather Armor
  • Why You Might Like Viking Leather Armor
  • Viking Leather Armor Overview Table
  • Popular Types and Styles of Viking Leather Armor
  • Common Viking Leather Armor Characteristics
  • Viking Leather Armor Costs
  • Pros of Viking Leather Armor
  • Cons of Viking Leather Armor
  • Viking Leather Armor Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Experienced Tips for Choosing Viking Leather Armor
  • My Personal Research With Viking Leather Armor
  • Viking Leather Armor Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Insights on Viking Leather Armor
  • Key Takeaways
A Viking Warrior Wearing Leather Armor - Viking Leather Armor - Liberty Leather Goods
A Viking Warrior Wearing Leather Armor

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One myth about Viking leather armor is that there are preserved pieces that show us exactly what type of armor the Vikings wore. The truth is there’s no evidence of leather armor, but there is evidence that the Vikings traded fur and likely used it for everyday objects and protective armor pieces.

It’s even possible that the Vikings wore the furs they traded as protection. Another myth about Viking leather armor is that there were horns on their helmets. Evidence shows that the Vikings wore very simple helmets made of iron or hardened leather or nothing else on their heads.

The History of Viking Leather Armor

According to Ben Raffield’s article published in Current Anthropology journal, the Viking Age was a violent time that saw political upheaval, expansion of colonies, and a great deal of conflict and warfare. From 750–1050 AD, there was much need for armor due to ongoing battles for land and supplies, and many Vikings could not afford chain mail and other more effective forms of iron armor.

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Most of these leather pieces decomposed, making it challenging for historians to put artifacts together, but remnants of some Viking leather armor pieces have been carbon-dated and confirm their use by Vikings during that time period.

Why You Might Like Viking Leather Armor

The Viking leather armor of today is quite attractive, with different types of leather woven or braided together to form flexible, warm armor. All pieces are fully adjustable and adorned with decorative brass or gold pieces with beautiful stitching.

Many Viking leather armor pieces are made with suede, which is luxurious and soft while providing protection. These pieces can be worn for a fashion statement or to protect the body from cold or heat.

Check out this helpful video by Weaver Leather Supply for a detailed look at some leather armor.

Viking Leather Armor Overview Table

Viking Leather Armor CharacteristicDetails
ItemViking Leather Armor
UsesProtection in battle, cosplay
Common MaterialsReindeer, cattle, or horsehide
Popular ColorsBrown, black
SizesS–XL, most pieces are adjustable to fit
Popular StylesWoven, layered, engraved
Cost Range ($)$9 single pieces up to $3,495 for a full set
How Long it Lasts (on average)A few months to 20 years
Viking Leather Armor Characteristics

Popular Types and Styles of Viking Leather Armor

Several types of Viking leather armor can be found today. The name of the type refers to how they might be used, the design and build of the armor, or where they originate from in history (or movies). These include:

  1. LARP (Live Action Role Playing)
  2. Celtic, pagan
  3. Barbarian
  4. Skyrim
  5. Norse

Some popular styles of Viking leather armor include those made with woven strips or layers of leather and those that contain engraved designs on the leather. They’re all beautiful in their unique way and an interesting piece of Viking history.

There are many beautiful Viking leather armor pieces that can be worn for cosplay or even as fashion statements. 

Common Viking Leather Armor Characteristics

Materials

Viking leather armor was historically commonly made from boiled and wax-treated reindeer, cattle, and horse hides. Today’s Viking leather armor is made from brown or black heavyweight suede, genuine, or faux leather.

Sizes

Sizing for Viking leather armor varies along with the different pieces available. For example, torso armor is available in modern-day sizing from small to extra-large based on chest, waist, and torso height measurements. Other pieces are adjustable to fit, including arm bracers and shoulder armor.

Variations

There are many variations of Viking leather armor available. Shoulder armor pieces wrap around the torso and protect the shoulders, arm bracers protect the forearms and wrists, and ankle pieces protect the lower legs. There are also torso pieces to cover the front and back of the torso. 

Key Uses

Historically, Viking leather armor was used for protection in battle. Viking leather armor is now often used for battle reenactments, cosplay, or costumes.

Viking Leather Armor Costs

Viking leather armor can be purchased in single pieces or a full set. Prices range from $9 for each arm plate to $3,495 for the full set. These prices depend partly on the amount of leather used for each piece, with higher quantities costing more. 

Pros of Viking Leather Armor

The leather armor was thick and protective against blows and knife slashes while allowing unrestricted movement during battle. It was lightweight, easy to make, cheap, and kept Vikings warm. Today’s Viking leather armor is also lightweight and beautifully made.

Cons of Viking Leather Armor

Viking leather armor was sturdy but not resistant to heavy blows. The armor historically only lasted a few months and had to be replaced frequently, but today’s Viking leather armor can last up to 20 years due to different processing and preservation methods.

Viking Leather Armor Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

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The Vikings used a process called cuir bouilli to boil the animal hides and then coat them with wax. This made the leather malleable, sturdy, and able to withstand slashes and cuts from knives or sharp weapons.

Shields made from this process have been discovered and dated to the Bronze Age (about 4,500 years ago) in Ireland. Viking leather armor is now made much like other everyday leather pieces today through tanning and preserving hides and machine manufacturing or even hand-sewing parts.

Experienced Tips for Choosing Viking Leather Armor

Frequency of Use

When deciding on Viking leather armor, the first thing to consider is how often it will be used. If it is for regular battle reenactments or cosplay, choose Viking leather armor that is crafted well and made to last. It will need to stand up to frequent use and be very durable.  

Environment/Conditions of Use

Where will the Viking leather armor be used most? For the elements and regular use, choose Viking leather armor that is durable and high quality to work well over time. Craftsmanship is very important for withstanding weather and potential blows.

Cost

The cost of Viking leather armor may be the deciding factor for most because it is usually made of high-quality leather and fine craftsmanship, which shows in the price tag. Pick a Viking leather armor set that is affordable and durable, or choose separate pieces over an entire set to save some money.

Trends

Some trends for Viking leather armor may fluctuate with popular movies or videos that use them. This can increase the demand and price of the armor, so availability can become a factor. Overall the general style of Viking leather armor remains steadfast, while specific trends will fade.

Personal Preference

If one has a particular preference for the style of Viking leather armor, it is worth spending the money on what pleases the eye. Whether it’s the type of Viking leather armor or the engraving of a symbol related to one’s family or passion, personal preference should precede something like trends.

My Personal Research With Viking Leather Armor

Several variations of Viking leather armor exist, with many beautiful patterns and designs to choose. Opt for faux, genuine leather, and even used pieces if one wants to save money. Here are the most common Viking leather armor pieces and price ranges one can expect to find:

Viking Leather Armor PiecePrice
Leather helmet$70–$200
Chest plate$25–$750
Shoulder plate$35–$950 per pair
Arm cuffs$8–$999 per pair
Thigh armor/belt$18–$595
Leg armor$20–$400 per pair
Full set of armor$400–$3,495
Viking Leather Armor Prices

Viking Leather Armor Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Viking Leather Armor

Viking leather armor can be cleaned using a soft-bristled brush with or without a vacuum attachment leather cleaner and a microfiber towel or old t-shirt. Specialty leathers like Suade and Nubuck require unique brushes and cleaning methods.

Test any leather cleaners in an inconspicuous spot for colorfastness if a commercial product is used. Don’t get the leather soaking wet, as this could lead to discoloration and mold.

How to Maintain Viking Leather Armor

Viking leather armor can be maintained with regular cleaning and proper storage. Clean it regularly and condition the leather after every cleaning to keep it looking good. Allow the leather to air dry entirely before conditioning.

How to Store Viking Leather Armor

Viking leather armor should be stored in a dry, cool place that does not experience any temperature extremes. Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent the leather from drying out and cracking. Then pull it out every few months to condition the leather to keep it looking great.

Helpful Insights on Viking Leather Armor

Did Vikings wear leather armor?

Vikings wore leather armor both alone and under chain mail. Leather armor was worn by Vikings who could not afford iron armor pieces like chain mail, but it still provided some protection in battle.

What was Viking armor made of?

Historically, Viking leather armor was made chiefly of reindeer hide but also cattle or horse hide. Vikings were known for consuming a great deal of meat, so plenty of animal hide was available for crafting leather armor.

Did the Vikings use black leather armor?

The Vikings’ leather armor was made from reindeer, cattle, or horsehide, and it is unknown what color it was then. Their processing and preservation techniques were unlike today, so much of the leather armor created at that time decomposed.

What is Viking leather chest armor?

Viking leather chest armor is a two-piece set that covers the front and back of the torso and attaches to the tops of the shoulders and on each side by leather straps. It is sometimes referred to as a chest plate or chest vest.

Key Takeaways

  1. Viking leather armor has been recreated based on expert historians and carbon dating.
  2. Vikings had animal hides readily available due to their meat consumption.
  3. Viking leather armor can be worn for battle recreations, cosplay, and costumes.

In Closing

Viking leather armor may not be something one wears every day, but for some, it is a way of life. With today’s leather processing and preservation techniques, Viking leather armor can be created and is expected to last very long. Many beautiful pieces can be worn for cosplay or even as fashion statements. Viking leather armor is a symbolic piece of challenging times and epic battles.

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