Question: Is it possible to have armor that only serves as aesthetic quality versus functional quality only serve as that? Such as ceremonial armor or ancestral armor.


Of course.  A lot of the armor that is on display in museums and owned by private collectors (and hence shown in books) was purely ornate and never intended to be worn into battle.  After all, not setting foot on a battlefield does help improve the chances of your armor not being destroyed.

Prior to firearms, crossbows and other innovations making heavy armor redundant, it was commonplace for rich leaders who didn’t actually set foot on the battlefield to decorate their armor.  Roman Emperors in particular seemed fond of looking absolutely fabulous in armor.


Even after heavy armor disappeared off the battlefield, many well-to-do had purely ornate suits made to try to capture the image of great heroes of years gone by. (This, and jousting armor intended only for sporting events, is part of where we get the myths of knights going to war in outfits they could barely move, let along fight in)

Ancestral armor was not really a thing in most places because generally a memorable suit of armor was part of an individual’s identity.  A noble’s armor were also unlikely to fit their heirs – outside of Disney movies few families have identical measurements from generation to generation.  Finally there was the issue that armor adapted as weapons did – wearing the previous generation’s armor exposed you to the current generation’s weapons.


The armor above was made for Sigismund II Augustus, the then King of Poland (who it seems probably never set foot on a battlefield) – and was one of twenty private armors owned by him at the time of his death.  It would not have been unusual for a noble wearing such as suit in a parade to accessorize with a sash and/or long cape.

The important part about purely ornate armor is that it looks like armor – just with decorations that go beyond being practical.  They still reflect the core armor values of the era but they’re just over decorated*, questionable accessorized and may have reductions made to facilitate their non-combat use (such as no gauntlets or arm protection if it’s for wearing to dinners and parties).

– wincenworks

* I say “over decorated” because there are some surprisingly heavily decorated suits of armor intended for real battles.  

I thought we’d bring this one back as the reminder that there’s no reason that fabulous looking armor can’t be (at least semi-)practical looking armor… just with more fabulous.

– wincenworks