What is a Baldric?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A baldric is a belt which is worn over the shoulder and crossed over the chest and back. Baldrics are intended to support weapons, classically swords, or accessories such as horns. The baldric is an ancient accessory, with works of art dating back thousands of years depicting people wearing baldrics. In addition to being used to hold weapons, the baldric has also been historically adapted for other purposes.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

The baldric looks like a sash, and when it is worn without a weapon it is in fact often referred to as a sash. While the accessory was originally designed to be practical, people quickly started decorating their baldrics to make them ornamental as well as functional. Some ceremonial baldrics worn for state occasions and other major events like weddings were embroidered, beaded, or otherwise decorated and carried ceremonial swords or no sword at all.

The design of the baldric allows easy access to a sword or another weapon, but it's also very practical. It allows the weapon to rest at the hip while providing support. Unlike a belt which goes around the waist, a baldric will not sag or ride down, and it distributes the weight of the weapon more evenly to reduce strain on the body. In addition, things can be clipped to the sash as it crosses the chest, allowing for the storage of multiple items.

Designs similar to the baldric were developed for people to carry bags, baskets, and other equipment, relying on the strap to distribute the weight while holding attached objects firmly in place. While the baldric was traditionally made from leather, people used other materials such as fabrics as well, especially when leather was not readily accessible. In the television series Star Trek some characters even wore baldrics made from chain mail, a somewhat unusual but very distinctive design. The accessory was typically designed to be worn over an outer shirt, but under coverings like jackets and cloaks.

Several companies make baldrics which are used for costuming and reenactments. There are also regions of the world where they are still worn practically, including in the ceremonial dress of several militaries and service organizations. Descendants of the baldric can also be seen in snug fitted bags which are supported by a strap which is worn over the shoulder and chest, and one variant on the basic design includes two sashes which criss-cross to provide more even distribution of weight.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Iluviaporos - I know a couple of people who are quite into steampunk and they both tried making baldrics from chainmail which turned out quite well.

To make chainmail, you have to get a bunch of small, metal rings which have been cut in one place so you can thread them on to each other. You can get them quite cheaply if you know where to look. From there it just seems to take a while, like knitting, but with metal.

Personally, I think they look like something from a Klingon uniform, but still quite cool and they do add a science fictional air to the rest of their costumes I suppose.


That's cool that he made it himself. And if he took the time to research proper leather craft, he's probably going to be able to make all kinds of things now. Leather stamping can be quite a beautiful art.

You can also get hand made baldrics online though. I've seen them in quite a few places, for a wide range of prices. I think since pirates came back into vogue with that Johnny Depp movie there are lots of people willing to buy them to make their pirate costume look authentic.

But you can get them in all styles, for a gun holster or a scabbard for medieval costumes.


I have a friend who is really into medieval recreations and he made himself a leather baldric. I really like it and I'm kind of hoping I can get him to make me one that's a bit looser so I can use it as a bag strap.

He figured out what the crest of his family name would be and designed that into a leather stamp and put that at the shoulder, and lined the whole thing in red. He uses it to strap his scabbard to his back when he goes to Ye Olde Faires and things like that.

I think it looks awesome, but I probably wouldn't have gone to so much trouble myself. Still, it's good to know that old traditions and skills are still alive in the world.

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