A Better Mail Collar

I made a mail collar with a dense weave and a slim neck profile, to achieve the aesthetic and protective qualities of historical mail collars.

The neck portion is made with three bands of 6-in-1 weave, joined by 4-in-1 rows. The bib portion is in 4-in-1, and scavenged from the last collar I made. All rings are riveted or solid 6mm inner diameter. A 2 inch velvet ribbon is sewn into the collar as a liner. A small gap in the liner stitching permits a kydex trauma plate to be concealed for modern sportive protection. A single buckle closes at the back, but I might add points or hooks later.

Today, nearly all modern mail collars are 4-in-1 weave, with relatively loose (“high aspect ratio”) rings. This weave does not stand up on its own, so modern people tend to add additional layers of fabric or leather to the liner to stiffen the collar. This does make the collar stand up and adds blunt trauma protection to the throat for modern sportive uses, but also severely distorts the aesthetics, and looks ungainly. The thickness of the liner in relation to its stiffness also limits how high the collar can go, which makes the “high and tight” look seen on many depictions of mail collars not achievable.

The goal for this project was to achieve this “high and tight” look. This collar has three bands of 6-in-1 weave, which is much denser than most modern mail. The high density in the weave allows the mail to stand up on its own, and also provides much more protection to a critical area like the throat. I think the results, both aesthetic and protective, are pretty conclusive.

This project has two major compromises.

First, the additional density of the neck portion of this collar is achieved by 6-in-1 weave. This type of weave is extremely rare for medieval Europe, and there is only one mail collar that has a 6-in-1 weave, at the British Museum. Most other collars achieve higher densities by increasing the thickness of the rings, in relation to the inner diameter of the hole (chunkier, “low aspect ratio” rings).

British Museum 6-in-1 mail collar example

I’m okay with this compromise, though. Using chunkier, low aspect ratio rings in a 4-in-1 weave would require either making my own rings, or ordering custom rings, drastically increasing the cost of this project. Critics who might claim the only “correct” way is to use 4-in-1 weave with the looser, modern rings tend to ignore the other compromises it necessitates – thick ahistorical liners, poor protection to the critical portions of the throat from piercing, and ugliness.

4-in-1 vs. 6-in-1/4-in-1 hybrid

The second compromise bugs me more. I wasn’t able to use 6-in-1 weave through the entire neck portion, like in the British Museum example, and had to alternate between bands of 6-in-1 and 4-in-1 weave. This compromise is entirely my fault, because I speed-wove the bands of 6-in-1 with flat solid rings at the edges, without verifying that I could join them together. It turned out, I could not. If I were to do this again in the future, I would make it entirely of riveted round rings, as these are more likely to support 6-in-1 throughout the entire neck portion. The end result would be even closer to historical examples, and an extremely good replica of the British Museum example.

Kydex trauma plate slot at the bottom of the neck.

Last, concealed armor is kind of my thing, so I hid armor inside my armor – a modern feature I included was a gap in the liner stitching for a kydex trauma plate to protect the throat. I intend to use this collar in modern armored fencing practice and tournaments, and it will serve as backup protection in case a point slips between my brigandine/cuirass and my bevor. The kydex plate is nearly invisible, and is actually installed in all of the pictures you see. It can be removed, and the gap in the lining stitching at the base of the neck is barely noticeable to even the wearer.

Overall, I’m very happy with how this collar turned out. I think it captures a lot of the physical and protective properties I was looking for, it suits my needs very well, and most importantly – I like how it looks. If you’re interested in trying something like this, check out Isak Krogh’s paper first. I have an article on how I tailored an older version of this collar which you can use for details on the bib portion, and there are many websites on how to do a six-in-1 weave.

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