What to Buy or In Which Order

1.      Glove – this is the first thing and usually the easiest.  We often have gloves for sale at the club, and if not we can probably order one for you.  If you are buying anything from a fencing supplier, get a glove as well if you don’t have one. Gloves cost $25 through the club: you might be able to find cheaper with luck but anything over $50 is too much. There isn’t a huge difference in quality, just personal preference. Measure the hand for the fitting, but remember that glove sizes are not truly standardized. Although many gloves are described as washable, don’t wash them – they wear out faster and will never be anything but revolting anyway. If you absolutely must wash, then do so separately, as the glove will stain anything else with dye or unspeakable filth.  Write your name inside the cuff.


2.      Mask/Weapon/Jacket (BP) – The order of these three depends entirely on your preference.  Little Johnnie or Jenny will usually want a weapon first but you might feel that a jacket or mask is a better option.  We can’t help you to solve this dilemma beyond noting that there is no practical reason to get the weapon first other than your child’s desire – for those who wish to practice at home, this will involve footwork, footwork and more footwork; it will be years before a weapon is needed here. Make sure to read the detailed comments below on buying each of these, as these are the most complicated, and then talk to a coach. Note also that girls must have a BP (breast protector) if they are wearing a jacket, regardless of age. Write your name on the spring or strap of the mask; on the inside of the jacket on or near the collar; and on the inside of the guard of the weapon, under the pad. Anywhere on the BP is good, as it will never see the light of day.


3.      Breeches/Plastron– These are often bought at the same time as the jacket.  Breeches are fencing pants, the very latest fashion of the eighteenth century.  They go from the waist to below the knees (the rules state that they must overlap the jacket, which goes down to the hips, by 10 cm when standing on guard), and often have elastic suspenders to hold them up.  North Americans call these “knickers” so bear this in mind if browsing US websites and spare a thought for a few severely embarrassed visiting US fencers.  The plastron, also called an under-plastron or sous-plastron (manufacturers often use the last as it sounds fancy but it’s just the French word for “under”), is an oddly-shaped garment worn on one arm under the jacket, which gives a double layer of protection in the areas most likely to be hit. It is designed so that its seams do not line up with those of the jacket for extra safety.  Plastrons tend to be “one-size-fits-all” and many sellers include them in kits. Write your name on the inside of each, and near the seat of the breeches.


4.      Electric Gear – This means wires and lamé jackets, as you will already have weapons and masks, which will need to be electric too (see below). The lamé jackets are conductive jackets worn over the normal jacket to allow the electrical scoring to tell if you have been hit on the target or off.  As the target is different, they are specific to foil or sabre, and sabre also requires a lamé glove or a cuff that goes over your normal glove.  The wires are either for epee or foil/sabre (the same wire can be used for both foil and sabre – a rare intrusion of common sense into fencing equipment), but must be the same connection system as the weapon (common sense couldn't last that long – there are more than five competing, incompatible systems). Foil and sabre also require mask wires which are two alligator clips joined by a length of wire, but don’t assume you can just make them up, as the rules specify the size and shape of the alligator clips! Wires are the hardest to name, anything you can get to stay on there is good. For lamés, write inside the collar, as for a jacket.


5.      Bag – By now you will have quite a bit of gear and you may well choose to buy this earlier, especially if little Johnnie or Jenny will be taking gear to school or on public transport.  See the notes below for more details.  This is the one piece of gear you can probably get away without naming, as everything in it should be named and you will usually notice if you leave without a four foot bag.


6.      Shoes – Details of what shoes to get for fencing are below, but it is worth noting that most children don’t need to get any different shoes for fencing for years, unless they are having problems.  Specialist fencing shoes are almost totally unnecessary – we hesitate to say ‘never’, but can’t imagine a situation where we would recommend them to a growing child. If you are still tempted, have a look at some prices, bear in mind that fencing shoes only offer an advantage if they fit well, think about how much your child’s feet are growing, and then decide how foolish you feel. Go for the cheaper end of the market if this still doesn't deter you.