The art of chain maile has existed for hundreds of
years, and was most likely conceived by the Celts, as shown in archaeological finds and pictorial representations. As early
as 5th century BC, chain maile was used, not only as a flexible armor, but as jewelry as well. Only the richest of the Celtic
chieftain's possessed such a luxury. In the movies every common man had a fine suit of maile. In reality, this was not the
case. It is assumed that only the very wealthiest and most powerful were allowed to wear chain maile. By the 13th century,
the practice was more widely used and inexpensive to make. There are even records of monarchs who dedicated entire villages
to nothing but the construction of maile for his armies.
The Celtic warriors were well known through history,
mainly for these types of advances in early weaponry and armor. Later, the art spread to the Germanic, Norse and Roman regions.
Maile was fairly decent protection on the battlefield and was very flexible. Unlike heavy plate armor, chain maile would absorb
some of the impact of a blow and allowed for free movement of the wearer. In special cases, the rings were sometimes designed
to actually yield to afford better protection.
In the chain maile findings it appears that two distinct methods
of construction were used. The first method used punched out rings in an alternating pattern with the rings butted together.
The second method used rings with flattened ends, which were then riveted together. The two methods varied by region. It is
thought that the Celts fashioned all of their maile by hand. The Germans later perfected the riveted method by making special
tools for shaping and riveting. By the 3rd century AD, the Japanese created their own version of maile. It was used instead
to cover joints and connect plates of armour. The samurai warriors wore this to protect themselves against peasant weapons
like spears and cheap swords and most arrows, as many only sported lead or fire hardened wood tips. Any good samurai katana
would go through even modern stainless steel maile like a hot knife through butter. Nevertheless, the Japanese are responsible
for many of the geometric weaves.
In modern times, maile is used for a wide number of recreational and industrial
applications. It is commonly used by rennaisance enthusiasts, butchers, motorcyclists and of course, Hollywood. Special,
heavy-duty looms can weave a 'sheet' of maile in hours that would take days to do by hand.