What Is A Fencing Outfit Called?

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Fencing has been practiced for both exercise and sport for hundreds of years. One of the most iconic parts about fencing is the outfit the fencers wear as they engage in combat. 

It’s easy to recognize the bright white ensemble and metal mask and know exactly what they are used for.

What is a fencing outfit called? There isn’t an official name for the outfit that fencers wear. It is most commonly called a fencing uniform. There are quite a few pieces that make up a fencing uniform so that it fully covers a fencer’s body.

Continue reading below to look closer at everything that goes into a fencing outfit and how it has evolved over the time that fencing has been around.

Read Also: 5 Great Fencing Epees - A Beginners Buyers Guide To Fencing

The Parts of a Fencing Outfit

A fencing outfit is made up of several different parts that work together to cover the most crucial areas of a fencer’s body. Having all these pieces together is essential for the safety of everyone participating.

Material

A fencing outfit is generally made of thick cotton or nylon. Cotton breathes better than nylon, but it also may shrink as it’s washed over time, throwing off the fit. Nylon may not breathe quite as well as cotton, but it retains its shape.

A fabric called Dyneema is incorporated to make the jacket even more resistant to being punctured, helping to prevent accidents. 

Originally, Kevlar was added to higher level fencing outfits after a death occurred at the 1982 World Championships. A change was needed. However, Kevlar becomes degraded by UV light and chlorine, making it difficult to clean.

Jacket

The torso of a fencer is protected by a snuggly fitted jacket. Jackets are long-sleeved to cover the arms and extend down between the legs where a strap keeps them in place. 

Sabre jackets are cut straight along the waist, covering only the target area of a fencer.

Fencing jackets also feature a gorget that covers the neck beneath a fencer’s mask. 

This protects the neck in the event a blade slips under the mask. You can find fencing jackets with the zipper located in the front or the back, though front zippered jackets are much easier to put on.

The jacket of an instructor may have additional padding made from foam to protect them from the numerous hits they take during training.

Plastron

Beneath the jacket, a plastron is worn on the side of a fencer’s sword arm. It provides extra protection should the jacket be penetrated and covers the side, upper arm, stomach, chest, and back. 

This piece of the uniform is extremely important should a weapon break and make it through the fencer’s other protections.

Mask

As the main protection for the face and neck, a fencing mask must be able to withstand incredible force. 

A mask is made up of a steel mesh that covers the face and a bib that comes down over the neck. Kevlar is usually included in the bib to make it extra resistant to puncturing.

There are masks that feature a clear, see-through visor over the eyes to aid in visibility. However, these have been banned in certain competitions due to an accident that occurred in 2009. 

The entire face must now be covered in a stainless-steel mesh that has no broken links or gaps where the tip of an opponent’s weapon might fit through.

Gloves

It is required that a fencer wears at least one glove on their sword hand to protect it from injury. The glove comes up around the forearm and includes a gauntlet that keeps a weapon from finding its way up the sleeve to the arm. Along with protection, a glove also improves your grip.

Do you need help to choose the right gloves for you? Take a look at this post and get all the details. 

Breeches

Also called knickers, these are the lower portion of the fencing outfit. 

They are short pants that end just below the knee and come up beneath the jacket by at least 10 cm. For added stability, breeches are typically equipped with a pair of suspenders.

Socks and Shoes

A fencer’s socks are long enough to cover what part of the leg their breeches don’t reach. They are required to come up at least past the knee, but sometimes cover up to the thigh.

There are no real requirements when it comes to the shoes worn during fencing. However, there are shoes made specifically for fencing that provide better stability. 

They have flat soles and are reinforced in a way that supports lunging and keeps them from wearing out so quickly.

Read Also: 13 Best Fencing Shoes

Chest Protector

Chest protectors are only necessary for female fencers. 

They provide an extra level of protection to the chest area beneath the rest of the fencing outfit. Chest protectors are usually made from hard plastic to prevent puncture.

Regulations on Fencing Outfits

When a fencer begins to participate in competitions, there are certain requirements their uniform must meet beforehand. 

These regulations have mostly to do with the amount of pressure the protective clothing can withstand before being punctured. These regulations are set into place for the fencer’s safety.

The Federal International Escrime, or FIE, oversees the regulations for fencers competing in international competition. 

Al fencers must be equipped with approved protective clothing before they can compete.

FIE Standards:

  • Jacket – Must withstand 800 newtons of pressure
  • Plastron – Must withstand 800 newtons of pressure
  • Mask Mesh – Must pass a 25 kg punch test
  • Mask Bib – Must withstand 1,600 newtons of pressure
  • Breeches – Must withstand 800 newtons of pressure

Regulations on fencing outfits didn’t come into the picture until the 1896 Olympics to ensure all fencers wore similar uniforms in matches. 

The FIE, however, wasn’t formed until 1913 to prevent arguments between countries on what standards everyone should go by.

A Brief History of Fencing Outfits

At the start, there wasn’t any kind of official fencing outfit. It is common to see in older artwork that people were simply fencing in their everyday clothes. This has evolved into the highly protective clothing worn by fencers today.

Manners were the only true form of protection in early fencing, where they would avoid pointing a weapon too high to avoid an opponent’s face. 

When masks were first conceived, they were made of solid metal with holes cut out for the eyes. Strings were used to tie the mask around the back of the head so it would stay on.

The Evolution

A true fencing uniform can be seen coming more commonly into use around the middle of the 19th century. They had jackets that buttoned up the side away from the sword arm and wire mesh masks to protect the face. These earlier masks didn’t have a bib over the neck.

Fencing jackets were typically made of heavy canvas or leather to protect a fencer and only came down to the waist. Around the bottom of a jacket, a 3” wide belt was sometimes worn to mark off the target area on the body.

While men always wore pants that were more than likely cropped beneath the knee, it wasn’t the same story for women in the early days of fencing. 

They are most commonly depicted wearing black skirts with black tights underneath. Women’s uniforms were not strictly regulated until 1912 when they began having formal competitions.

Why White?

The tradition of wearing white in fencing has no definite source, but there are a few trains of thought as to why white was chosen and ended up sticking around.

  1. White was the easiest color to wash without fading and didn’t need to be dyed.
  2. Fencing was once contested until first blood, which was easiest seen on white.
  3. The use of an ink-soaked pad at the end of a weapon to mark hits showed up best on white.

Though white is the most common color, it’s not required. Fencers are allowed to wear other colors as well as decorate parts of their uniforms. However, black is usually reserved for instructors.

Fencing Outfits Are Crucial to the Sport

Whether you refer to your fencing clothes as an outfit or a uniform, they still serve an incredibly important role. 

Having the right level of protection while you fence prevents any serious injuries or tragic accidents from occurring.

Always ensure that you have the proper uniform whenever you are fencing. It’s not just a way to look like a fencer, but to keep you safe. Beyond that, you can call it whatever you want!

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