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What Is a Gorget?

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  • Written By: Janis Adams
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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Originally worn by 17th and 18th century military officers, the gorget was a piece of armor designed specifically for the purpose of protecting the throat and the upper chest. Usually made of steel, this collar was used to combat injuries from non-projectile weapons such as swords and lances. It was common for this piece to contain an emblem or demarcation signifying the office or rank of the wearer. Oftentimes, the gorget was the only indicator of a military official's rank. Indians wore them as well as testament to their place within the tribe.

Gorgets were worn over chainmail that would come up to the neck line. Hung from a chain around the neck, some featured detachable leather straps. From these straps, pouldrons could be fastened, offering protection for the upper arm and shoulder. This practice was common when full armor was worn.

At the end of the 18th century, wearing a gorget for protection became obsolete. The English first abandoned the practice, followed by the French two decades later, and it was the Germans who remained the last holdouts with many members of the Nazi party continuing to favor them. It was at this time that it became largely a figurative representative of achieved stature within the party. During this century, the piece was worn mainly to indicate when an officer was on active duty, establishing their rank on site.

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Use of the gorget has been recently resurrected. Both the U.S. Army and the Navy have incorporated the device into stated uniform. It is now used primarily as an ornamental collar or colored throat patch.

As a decorative and functional collar, over the centuries gorgets have also been worn by women. While part of the days' fashion, its distinct purpose was to hide the visible signs of aging easily noticeable on the delicate skin of a woman's throat, neck and chest. They were worn higher and used for greater coverage of the neckline and would be best described as the scarf-like part of a wimple.

More recently, the gorget has been used in Gothic costuming and dress worn by both males and females. These fashion accessories are often made of leather, lace, feathers or rubber and are often found in black. When not a part of fashion apparel, a type of gorget is worn today as a protective gear by paintballers, motorcycle riders, all terrain vehicle drivers and trek sport bikers.

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Discuss this Article

Clairdelune
Post 4

Recently I've watched a couple of documentaries depicting the English military wearing their gorgets and all the other armor to protect them in battle. It seemed like the armor didn't protect all that well, and lots received injuries. Fortunately, their hearts were fairly well protected.

For the injured, a majority of them died from loss of blood and infection.

I was just thinking about our military today fighting in the Middle East. Many more soldiers than in the past have devastating injuries, but live, because of the sophisticated medical care. The way battles are fought has really changed over the centuries.

Bertie68
Post 3

It's interesting that women in past centuries adapted the gorget armor for their own purposes. Just imagine - they had no botox treatments or anti-wrinkle creams, so they made gorgets that could fashionably hide those pesky wrinkles on their neck.

As for women today, if they have no luck with the aging creams, about the only garment that can hid the neck wrinkles would be a high turtle neck shirt of sweater. But they could always find a pattern for a gorget and make a few in nice bright colors.

starrynight
Post 2

@indemnifyme - You're right, most people these days don't really have any reason to wear a gorget. Still, I can see why it was originally invented.

War used to be carried out much differently. There was a lot more direct hand to hand combat involved. And if you're going to be involved in direct combat, protecting your neck is probably a good idea.

indemnifyme
Post 1

I actually saw a guy dressed in goth clothing the other day wearing one of these! It was made out of leather and it pretty much covered his whole neck.

I suppose he was just wearing it as a fashion statement though. We weren't in a particularly bad part of town, so I think the likelihood that he needed it for any practical reason was pretty slim.

While the gorget itself was very nicely made, I think it looked slightly ridiculous the way this particular guy was wearing it. He was wearing a band t-shirt for goodness sakes!

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