Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Buff coats, worn under armor by cavalry and officers, could stop a sword cut or even a musket or pistol balls

David Goran

Buff coats (the term deriving from the ox or buffalo hide from which it was commonly made and its yellowish color) are the thick leather coats, often worn under armor by cavalry and officers during the 17-th century. It also saw limited use by some infantry.

They became a popular alternative to plate armor, as they are fairly light and flexible and yet strong enough to give protection against sword cuts.

Soldier of the English Civil War wearing a buff coat (Victorian painting by John Pettie). Photo Credit

Soldier of the English Civil War wearing a buff coat (Victorian painting by John Pettie)  Photo Credit

It was almost as a sort of gambeson- filling in the gaps where the armor would be too restrictive, though it was also be worn as an alternative to metal armor. However, the buff coat was ineffective against firearms, possibly excepting spent bullets.

Buff coat used by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden at the Battle of Dirschau, August 6, 1627. Photo Credit

Buff coat used by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden at the Battle of Dirschau, August 6th, 1627 Photo Credit

 

The coat provided some protection against swords and other edged weapons. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The coat provided some protection against swords and other edged weapons Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Also called a buff jerkin, the historical buff coat was developed from simple leather jerkins worn by huntsmen and soldiers during the Tudor era. The leather of these coats is very thick and can be as thick as 5mm. Many high-quality examples show apparent fastenings of gold or silver tape at the front. However, these were merely decorative.

The finest quality buff coats were expensive, which may account for their widespread association with officers and other men of material substance. The very finest buff coats were made of elk hide. Carbine belts were also made of buff leather.

Sleeved buff coat once belonging to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Photo Credit

Sleeved buff coat once belonging to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden Photo Credit

 

 

A cavalry officer of the English Civil War wearing a buff coat under a cuirass. The buff coat has sleeves decorated with bands of gold lace. Portrait by William Dobson, 17th century. Photo Credit

A cavalry officer of the English Civil War wearing a buff coat under a cuirass. The buff coat has sleeves decorated with bands of gold lace. Portrait by William Dobson, 17-th century Photo Credit

 

Portrait of Per Stålhammar (1612-1701). Photo Credit

Portrait of Per Stålhammar (1612-1701) Photo Credit

Ties close the front and the ends of the long sleeves and panels extend from the waist to cover part of the legs for additional protection.

Some Spanish examples have buff bodies with elaborate velvet sleeves to give a hint of fashion as well as displaying wealth.

Gustav II Adolph at the Battle at Breitenfeld, 17th century. Photo Credit

Gustav II Adolph at the Battle at Breitenfeld, 17-th century Photo Credit

 

Some of the coats have a thicker, shorter sleeve covering the upper arm to make it easier to move the arms. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Some of the coats have a thicker, shorter sleeve covering the upper arm to make it easier to move the arms Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

Buff coats were issued to a minority of musketeers in the pike and shot formations to give them some protection during hand-to-hand combat.

Here is another story from us: The Huldremose Woman: One of the best preserved and best-dressed bog bodies

They were also worn by civilians requiring a protective and durable garment, such as huntsmen and men traveling on horseback.