History of Protective Wear
As long as men have done battle, they have looked for protective clothing. When the Greeks were marching to the sea in 401 BC, Xenophon, a great warrior, led his army of Greek mercenaries up the Tigris valley. He writes an eyewitness account of meeting the Chalybes, a most warlike tribe. He says, “They had body armour of linen, reaching down to the groin, and instead of skirts to their armour they wore thick twisted cords. They also wore greaves and helmets and carried on their belts a knife about the size of the Spartan dagger."
The Roman Armies wore chain mail (maille) shirts, which were rings of heavy iron, steel or brass linked together in breastplates. Other large countries such as Persia, India and Japan also developed their own overlapping scales of protection, often utilizing metal, horn, bones, leather and plates of animal skin and rhinoceros hide.
Renaissance Europe had the most prolific armor production in both Northern Italy and the south of Germany. In Milan, one family, the Missaglias, became prominent for their artisanship; they exported armor in all directions. A man who earned fame as a skilled and highly esteemed armorer of his age was Filippo Negroli (1510–1579), a descendant of the Missaglias. His business provided parade armor for the Emperor, hunting plates and protective wear for the duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria I della Rovere.
Metropolitan Museum of Art historians claim that armor was most commonly looted from the battlefield and worn by knights or warriors. However, armor could also be bought at all price points and was often ready-made at markets, trade fairs and city shops. Of course, the king’s armor would have been the craft of celebrated masters, and although it is hard to assess costs, perhaps the phrase, “worth a king’s ransom" is apropos here.