Model names in HEMA gear are nonsense

This is not a critique on HEMA manufacturers and their choices for how they name the products in the catalogues.

Instead, it is a warning for new HEMA people for when they start shopping and some of the confusion that might arise from the many model names of HEMA equipment.

Never forget that manufacturers choose the names of swords, jackets, gloves, etc., for various reasons, and often marketing concepts play a small or a big role. Usually, producers go for either a unique name or an extremely common one (Koning vs Sparring Gloves, for example).

In some cases they do try to give some indication towards what the product is meant for – like “The Rennaissance jacket”, or the “SPES Heavy gloves”. But not always.

And when it comes to swords, things are most confusing.

A favourite example is I.33. Right now, this is the name of: one arming sword made by Albion Swords; one designed by Albion, but made for the Royal Armouries; and one by Regenyei Armory.

People might be under the wrong impression that these swords are somehow based on the swords in treatise I.33, or the Tower Manuscript, but that is not exactly true. And how could it be, when one is a type XII, another a type XV, and the third an atypical blunt that might be a XVI?

Yes, all three swords represent typical arming swords from the period of I.33, and were probably often used together with sword and buckler and probably by students of the Priest. But are they the swords in I.33?

Of course not. Or rather, they could be, but so, too, could they be other types – XIII, Xa, XVIII. The stylized art of I.33 doesn’t really show much more than a “sword” – a straight blade with some profile taper and a simple crossguard and pommel.

The same goes for most swords you see in treatises. While one may argue that Talhoffer shows a type XVa in his manuscripts, and that type was very popular in his time, it can just as easily be an XVIIIb. And that doesn’t mean his techniques won’t work with a XVIa, XVII, or a XIX.

Later masters with access to better art sometimes deliberately point that out through their illustrations – for example Viggiani, who shows sideswords with a simple guard, with the classic rings only, up to a full Schiavona-like basket. And all of them on different blades, some thinner, some much wider.

Another example on the market that may confuse some people are the two Cold Steel longswords. Many people agree they make decent cutting swords, but some are confused – should they get the “Italian” one when they study Liechtenauer? Or if they like the “German” one, but train Fiore…

What is so Italian about this anyway?

I will tell you a secret – either of those swords could be easily found in Italy or Germany. Yes, there are some sword fittings that are more typical for one region than another… but just as sword blades traveled (the blade of the famous Brescia Spadona was made in the Holy Roman Empire, for example) so did fittings. And fittings don’t really affect use that much, especially if this is going to be only a cutting sword.

Now, there are some important distinctions hidden behind model names – like some vendors calling their shorter, cup-hilted rapiers “Spanish”, and their longer swept-hilts “Italian”, but what you should look at most of all are the specifications of the sword.

And when it comes to jackets, don’t mind if it is “Renaissance” or “Pro”; check the specs, check reviews and buy according to your needs.

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