The Amazing Engineering of Gauntlets (Armored Gloves) from the 16th Century

The phrase “to throw down the gaunt­let” means to issue a chal­lenge, and this is under­stood all over the Eng­lish-speak­ing world — even by those who have no idea what, exact­ly, a gaunt­let is. “The word itself comes from the French word gan­telet, and referred to the heavy, armored gloves worn by medieval knights,” writes’s Eliz­a­beth Har­ri­son. “In an age when chival­ry and per­son­al hon­or were para­mount, throw­ing a gaunt­let at the feet of an ene­my or oppo­nent was con­sid­ered a grave insult that could only be answered with per­son­al com­bat, and the offend­ed par­ty was expect­ed to ‘take up the gaunt­let’ to acknowl­edge and accept the chal­lenge.”

How many of us, here in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, have ever lit­er­al­ly tak­en up a gaunt­let? Adam Sav­age nev­er has, which may come as a sur­prise to fans of the for­mer Myth­Busters co-host and enthu­si­ast of com­bat tech­nolo­gies past, present, and future.

Or at least he had­n’t until mak­ing the new video above, which finds him in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art’s Arms and Armor con­ser­va­tion lab. There, armor­er Ted Hunter has opened up the muse­um’s “gaunt­let draw­er” and laid out an array of gen­uine exam­ples for Sav­age to take up, all of them made in Ger­many or Italy in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry.

Each of these gauntlets was made in a dif­fer­ent style, with details like a fine-meshed chain mail under­side (to make it eas­i­er to keep a grip on your sword) or even a lock­ing spring catch (to make it impos­si­ble to let go of your sword at all). Sav­age mar­vels at these fea­tures, but also the vis­i­bly painstak­ing crafts­man­ship that went into every aspect of these gauntlets’ con­struc­tion, which he has more than enough expe­ri­ence to under­stand. His enthu­si­asm and knowl­edge are evi­denced by the wealth of armor-relat­ed videos on his Youtube chan­nel, includ­ing a series about build­ing his own full suit of armor, a chal­lenge that it was inevitable he would set him­self against — a gaunt­let, in oth­er words, he both threw down and took up.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How to Make and Wear Medieval Armor: An In-Depth Primer

How Well Can You Move in Medieval Armor?: Medieval­ist Daniel Jaquet Gives It a Try in Real Life

How to Get Dressed & Fight in 14th Cen­tu­ry Armor: A Reen­act­ment

What It’s Like to Actu­al­ly Fight in Medieval Armor

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Cen­tu­ry Armor?: A Sur­pris­ing Demon­stra­tion

Watch Adam Sav­age Build Barbarella’s Space Rifle in One Day

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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