Oh, dear. It seems someone has been "biting me"...?
Fetch me my trousers at once!
No, not those. Those are my time travel trousers.
No, those are my tea trousers...
That's it! Those ones.
My fighting trousers!
When it comes to equipment HEMA has come a very long way in just a few years. Just two-three years ago it was still hard finding any equipment that suited our specific needs and which had a consistent look. Land hockey/soccer goalie pants, t-shirts, fencing coach's jackets & medieval gambeson, Lacrosse gloves etc painted a rather ragged picture. Today, things are very different and we have a whole range of manufacturers catering to our needs. Still some aspects of this hasn't really received as much attention and fighting trousers is one such area. It is easy to overlook this, but they really are an important part of a good HEMA outfit. Luckily, a few manufacturers like Absolute Force provide quality products in this area and this is what I will review today; the AF HEMA Black Pants.
To put it short; I love these! They do have certain areas which can be improved upon, which I will return to later, but they have a rugged and tough design that really suits my tastes. The fabric is sturdy, the tailoring and fitting is really, really good and they look very sharp and professional. The picture on the right really don't do them justice I think.
The length of the legs come down to half the calves which is good and the waist is suitably high, giving you a traditional style that in my opinion fits HEMA quite nicely. These I think point out the path for the future of a more standardized HEMA kit , something which i think is good as it makes us appear more professional and serious to the world around us.
The width of the pants allows for good mobility and that comes from someone who tries to work with Meyer stances, standing and moving very low. There is no elastics in the crotch area, but that isn't needed either. However, wearing a cup on the outside doesn't work as well for that reason, although that is a habit we really should get rid of anyways. Either that, or go all the way and decorate them, wearing big, fluffy ribbons on our cod pieces.
Another really good thing is that I don't notice them getting unusually hot, unlike the fully synthetic pants we have used a lot thus far. This is probably due to the cotton-polyester blend similar to jeans fabric, although mixed and weaved to stand up to 350 N CE certification. Also, this choice of fabric really makes them look both stylish and tough, much more so than any fully synthetic, and often cheap-looking material does.
If you go to a lot of HEMA events you will also appreciate the back pocket where you can keep your phone or wallet. Really good decision to include that.
The pants provide extra protection over the hips with inside pockets where included semi-hard foam inserts can be placed. Personally I don't use them as I feel somewhat less mobile with them in the very low stances, but I can see how they can be useful and it is an easy and comfortable hip protection for sure.
Sizes come in a broad range from Small to XXL so most should be able to find a pair that suits them. The XXL isn't that big though as the waist is high, almost reaching the belly button, thus suiting a waist of a maximum of 40-42 inches. If you are bigger than that, then you will need another alternative.
So, what would I like to see improved upon then?
Well, in my personal opinion, two things should be changed a bit and I also have some personal ideas.
First of all, the included suspenders/bracers, not shown in the pic, are no good. Both the design and the quality is flawed as they get worn out quickly and since they don't cross or sit tightly together in the back. As a result they keep sliding off the shoulders and they actually get quite annoying. Fortunately, that is easily fixed with a pair of scissors and using a proper pair of suspenders. I would actually suggest getting rid of the integrated suspenders completely and just adding some belt loops instead.
The velcro fastening in the waist wears out the fabric, as it often comes misaligned during fencing. I would assume that velcro is used to better accommodate size variation. But I still feel it should be replaced by a regular button or hooks.
Furthermore, I would personally like to see a more rigid zipper. The one used certainly works and just having one is great, but it seems a bit too thin to suit the intended use for these pants. Finally, and this is a personal cosmetic preference. It would be cool to have the bottom part of the legs not using elastics, but two or three buttons, or simple laces, instead, like on historical fencing pants used throughout the 16th-19th century. It would be a cool nod to our predecessors, I think, at the same times as it completes the professional, stylish and semi-traditional design, stepping away from the synthetics.
Overall, a great job and what I plan to stick to for the foreseeable future. Until something even better comes along. 🙂
The price is only 52USD which really is quite cheap, although importing them to Europe will of course raise the costs to some degree.
You can find these trousers at Absolute Force.