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A coif was a close fitting garment that served two functions, either as protection under a helm or as a garment.




A coif used for protection was made out of padded cloth, leather or mail. The purpose was to add an extra layer of protection between a helm and the wearer. Additionally, it made the process of donning and doffing a helm, an easier and quicker process.

The exact origins of mail coif are in debate as well as the origins of mail with the common contribution of the common 4-in-1 design being attributed to the Celts around the 5th century BC. The usage of mail coifs grew in popularity during the Roman Empire and continued in usage through the 13th century AD. During the 14th century the aventail grew in popularity till it completely eclipsed the mail coif sometime during the 15th century.


Cloth coifs first came into use during the 10th century AD by those of all social standing and lasted into the 17th century, but had largely been abandoned by men in the 14th century.

Coifs were seen as similar to undergarments. No one respectable would go out in public with their hair exposed. The purpose of the garment varied from a piece of modesty to protection from dirt, grime and head lice.

The style and construction of the head piece varied from era to era. During the Tudor era, it was constructed of simple white linen and was tied beneath the chin. During the Elizabethan era, wearers began to adorn their coifs with lace, blackwork and embroidery.

See Costuming.



In the SCA coifs are often used in both armored and rapier combat to meet the puncture/abrasion resistant back of the head requirements to help protect against percussive blows.

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