Shouldering the burden of wearing armor...
December 23, 2009 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Looking for ideas to add shoulder padding & support under leather LARP armor.

I have a leather breastplate that is held up by shoulder straps about 2" wide, which bear all of the weight of the armor. I have a belt for it, but due to the design, the armor doesn't rest on my hips well, keeping the weight mostly on my shoulders. You can see a pic here (Warning, extreme geekery involved.)

Ideally, I'm looking for a modern set of sports gear shoulder pads to slip under the armor, on my shoulders, to help distribute the weight and ease it a bit. I took a look at Modell's website for football pads, but even the light ones for QBs & Kickers are too large, and cover the chest as well as the shoulders.

The other trick is to keep it low-profile enough that I can slip a mantle or large shirt over it, so the appearance of (fantasy) medieval armor isn't ruined. I have a vision of a back harness with shoulder pads on it from somewhere, but I don't remember where I saw it.

Thank you!
posted by GJSchaller to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How much protection do you need? Is the padding just to keep the straps from chafing and getting uncomfortable? Or do you need something akin to football padding to protect you from big hits and the like?
posted by Think_Long at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2009

Best answer: Lacrosse equipment is a lot less bulky than football gear. Something like this or this or this maybe?
posted by Mitheral at 9:54 AM on December 23, 2009

I'm guessing the armor is what's on the table? I would use something like a thick neoprene or dense-ish rubber foam such as is used in marching band drum harnesses. Something like that is commonly worn under a uniform and wouldn't be too obtrusive, and depending on the adaptability of something like that off-the-shelf for your period-appearance needs you might be able to actually hook the armor to the harness instead of hanging it on your shoulders, which would help in weight distribution.

If not, maybe a piece that goes over your shoulders (like Randy Quaid's turtleneck in "Christmas Vacation"), consisting of a few layers of closed-cell foam of decreasing density between the straps and your shoulders, creating kind of a thin foam pyramid that distributes the weight over a wider area and takes the edge off the straps. All in all, though, "under the clothes" should be a doable proposition.

I'm not a LARPer, but it's an interesting bit of apparel engineering! :) Good luck.
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on December 23, 2009

Maybe some kind of modified backpack? It seems like you'd be much better off with a way to transfer some of the weight to your hips than just distribute it across the shoulders. Or possibly a belt attached inside the armor, so you could just worry about functionality rather than appearance?
posted by ecurtz at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2009

Lacrosse or perhaps roller-hockey gear could do the job. Older-style ice-hockey gear might be good too, but that's probably not easy to find.

You might need to do a little modification to get exactly what you're looking for.
posted by jjb at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2009

How about something from rugby?
posted by Max Power at 10:07 AM on December 23, 2009

What about just sticking some foam padding underneath the shirt? You could hold it in with double-sided tape or maybe velcro, if you want to get a little fancier. It wouldn't distribute the weight, but it would certainly ease it. You could also add padding (stained to match the breastplate) to the underside of the straps if your need to appear period is not so strict. You might also inquire of your local SCA chapter for recommendations if you need a more period-correct solution.

Or, hey, how was this actually done, back in the day? I seem to recall some sort of padded undershirt - gambeson, I think? That might also be an answer.
posted by booksherpa at 10:08 AM on December 23, 2009

Rugby shoulder pads are completely soft, and can usually be found on discount (because real ruggers don't wear pads).
posted by electroboy at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2009

Oops, that's what I get for not previewing.
posted by electroboy at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2009

Best answer: Consider a "shoulder injury pad" from Adams. The smallest one is the third one down. These can be mail-ordered from sports stores. (I don't recommend ordering from Football America, though.)

I wear these underneath my goalie armor, and it fits the bill perfectly.
posted by Citrus at 10:15 AM on December 23, 2009

Rugby Pads might work here (as others have suggested).

If you need to go a step further, I might suggest Lacrosse pads, they are a little more substantial than the rugby get up but still less substantial the the football stuff. You might find a "shoulder pad liner" that works for you there.

Another idea might be a motocross chest protector. That might work as a weight-spreading protective device too.
posted by milqman at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: That's me standing, in the leather armor - that's the best shot of me with just the breastplate on (Other photos have obscuring bits, like cloaks or shoulder armor, hiding the view).

I don't need protection so much - we're using "boffers" which are softer foam weapons, and the armor itself helps a bit. (There's more coverage, I'm not wearing it all in the photo because I'm not anticipating any combat while at the forge in the game.) I also have a layer of stainless steel chain mail I layer uunderneath as well.

I'll hit a few of the links - thank you, very much!
posted by GJSchaller at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: Or, hey, how was this actually done, back in the day? I seem to recall some sort of padded undershirt - gambeson, I think? That might also be an answer.

I was thinking of that as well, but I am a firm believer in using modern science and technology to enhance my fantasy medieval game - LEDs in magic swords, etc. ;-) Given the discomfort is a real-world thing, I would rather go for a modern solution and hide it well, than a historical one that doesn't work as well.

One of my friends does have a Gambison he wears under a stainless steel breastplate, and it helps a bit, but it's more to prevent chafing than actual support & padding.

I would use something like a thick neoprene or dense-ish rubber foam such as is used in marching band drum harnesses.

Holy cow, that is the EXACT thing I was thinking of, but could not remember - thank you! It's been a while since I was in a band, but I knew I'd seen it before somewhere.
posted by GJSchaller at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2009

If you can find a good picture of the back of the Churburg harness, you might consider changing the strapping to match that design. (Basically it runs a strap from the right shoulderto somewhere around the left kidney and vice versa, crossing over in the middle. Then there's one strap across the back to hold it together.) I have a leather apron I use for blacksmithing that is causing me the same problem and is going to get this treatment sometime soon.

In my experience, if you can find out what they were doing it's usually about as good a solution as you can hope for since they had to deal with this kind of stuff every day to not die while we deal with it on the occasional weekend for fun. Modern materials are nice (loves me some stainless and A2 tool steel) but a lot of times you end up with a low cost, highly durable thing that still isn't as comfortable or useful as you'd like.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: I've been thinking about getting the armor re-made down the line, when I have the finances again - that's a good tip to go with, thank you. Sadly, the current armor isn't re-strappable without major effort, basically rebuilding it.
posted by GJSchaller at 4:27 PM on December 23, 2009

I think a pressure suit would work well for what you're doing. They're used by offroad motorcyclists and bicyclists. Several manufacturers make them; I'd look for a SixSixOne or Alpinestars.
posted by workerant at 6:02 PM on December 23, 2009

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