Jackets, Breeches and Plastrons (Whites)

These have been grouped together, even though you might not buy them together, because the considerations and issues are almost the same.

·        Whites are also available in FIE (in this case 800N) or non-FIE (350N and anything else).  As both jacket and plastron are 800N we can see that the FIE standard is actually 800N and 1600N in the critical areas.  Here we would advise even more strongly that you not get the more expensive FIE whites unless several national events are likely in the next couple years. This is because whites will be outgrown much faster than a mask, and you can usually borrow some for one or two events.

·        Sizing can be difficult here, so be guided by the manufacturer’s charts as far as possible.  Try on other people’s jackets if they are the same brand (again, there is no standard sizing) but the larger number of sizes makes this less useful than for masks. Children who will probably grow can usually be put in jackets or breeches one or two sizes bigger than they need without too many problems; at a pinch, even four sizes up can work. Remember that different brands can use totally different sizing systems.

·         Breeches should reach from the waist to below the knees.  Be aware that sizing charts which ask for the inside leg measurement normally mean from below the knee – if in doubt, measure from about one inch below the bottom of the kneecap. Again, remember that Americans call these “knickers”.

·         Jackets should reach the hips (the distance from waist to hip provides the required overlap of jacket over breeches) when the fencer is standing “on guard”, which means that they are slightly below the hips when standing normally. This is the horizontal part of the hem, before it angles down to the crotch-strap.

·         Some older sabre jackets do not have a crotch-strap, i.e. they end in a horizontal line at hip height both front and back – these are not acceptable now.

·         Jackets should be side zip – also called front zip. Back zip ones are only for clubs and schools.  Any attachment other than a zipper is unacceptable and, though many brands have Velcro or a button in addition to the zipper, there is virtually no modern brand which doesn't have a zipper.  The zip needs to be on the correct side – left for a right-hander, right for a left-hander, so the zip is on the side away from your opponent and unlikely to be hit. You would normally order a jacket as “right-handed” or “left-handed” rather than left or right zip.

·         Plastrons are also FIE or non-FIE, but there is little point to the non-FIE variety, as state competitions do not require one, and those events which do require the FIE variety – all National competitions for open or age category require full FIE gear, so FIE jacket, breeches and plastrons, but some school or other events allow lower levels for the jacket and breeches while still requiring the FIE plastron. Generally ignore this until you need FIE gear, but if there is a good deal on an FIE plastron then consider it, as it is small, won’t add much to postage, and tends to be almost “one-size-fits-all” (this is not strictly true, but a child will outgrow several jackets before the plastron stops fitting, which also makes it much easier to borrow a plastron).  These are also called “under-plastrons” and “sous-plastrons”.

·         Some manufacturers will offer different “fittings” within a size range, i.e. “tall” or “short” (they usually come up with a euphemism for short) for those who are unusually tall or short for their chest or hip circumference, which is the main metric for choosing the size.  This tends to be offered only on the more expensive whites.

·         Different brands of whites can have quite different materials and thus a different feel.  Again, hunt through the other fencers at school or club to get a feel for what you would like.  Among the FIE whites, the Leon Paul Team Range are a very thick and heavy cotton, while their London Range (they rename it for the most recent Olympics) is thinner and will stretch, as well as having a lining which makes it feel more like pulling on a thin, though close-fitting, jumper.  Allstar whites are reputed to be thinner and closer-fitting than the thicker Uhlmann (despite both brands being owned by the same company) though the Uhlmann is still not as thick as the LP Team whites.  Absolute Fencing whites (often called AF) are similar to Uhlmann. Soudet whites are smooth and stretch to fit tightly and are thus beloved of epéeists who imagine that the opponent’s point will magically slide off.  Thicker and heavier is not necessarily bad, as this will generally absorb more an impact – again, it is personal preference.

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