The invention of the stirrup enabled horse-soldiers or knights to wear heavy armour and, at the same time, to control their horses in battle. By the 11th century, knights were almost completely covered in mail armour. Mail was made of small interlocking steel rings so that each ring had four others linked through it. Together they made a fabrick strong enough to protect the wearer from most cutting blows. Each armour or harness, as a suit of mail was called, had to be properly planned. The knight had to be carfully measured to make sure that his armour fitted him perfectly. As mail was very expensive to make, it was usually passed down from father to son and modified by the family armourer to fit the new wearer.
Mail was not nearly as heavy as it sounds. Indeed, it was probably about as heavy as the equipment worn by a modern infantryman. A very strong knight, could dance in full mail. Neverthless, a knight had considerable difficulty arming himself and really needed the help of his squire or a servant.
First of all, he put on linen stockings, breeches and a long sleeved shirt made of wool. On top of these clothes, he wore a leather tunic or a padded coat called an aketon; this stopped his shoulders from being rubbed red raw by the movement of the coat of mail.
Sometimes, the knight had to pull his hauberk or coat of mail over his head and wriggle inside, but some hauberks were split up the back so that the knight could push his arms into the sleeves before his squire laced him in. Some knights wore mail leggings or chausses. The tops of these were attached by straps to a waist belt to keep them up.
A coif, a kind of mail balaclava helmet, was pulled over the head and hung down over the neck and shoulders.
A simple conical helmet made of leather or metal, which was padded like a modern crash helmet to protect the head from heavy blows, was worn on top of the coif. A strip of metal called a nasal guarded the nose from swordcuts across the face. A simple type of spur, known as a prick spur was buckled into place on each foot.
The knights equipment was completed by a long, heavy word in a scabbard or sheath, and a large kite-shaped shield held in place by leather straps.