I'm building a world where the main characters' civilization is seen as warlike and aggressive by outsiders (although this is not necessarily accurate). When designing their clothing aesthetics, I was inspired especially by the barbarian armor in Breath of the Wild (here's a picture for those not familiar). This type of armor is not uncommon in games (e.g. the fur armor in the Elder Scrolls series, some orc designs in Dungeons and Dragons, the characters in Horizon Zero Dawn), but I don't know where the original idea is from.

These clothing items have a few things in particular that I'm looking for:

  • Have fur (usually white) as part of the armor
  • May use bone, especially animal skulls (can be a decorative element)
  • Incorporate animal skin/leather

Rather than look at these games for reference, I'd much rather find a real culture that used clothing like this. So far, none of the groups I've looked at have armor made like this.

Which groups/civilizations inspired this type of clothing?

EDIT: It wasn't clear in my original question that I'm more interested in the aesthetics of the "armor" rather than the protective capability. I'm curious about clothing for situations other than combat (everyday life or ceremonies) as well as armor.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Whilst you may be worldbuilding, the question itself might be a better fit on the History stack, our sister site on the network, or if you're asking about third-party worlds and their writer's inspirations, maybe the Science Fiction & Fantasy stack. You may find inspiration for your next question for this stack. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2021 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ A web search of "bone armor historical" turned up some stuff, of course looking nothing like the decorative non-armor in the linked image. The civilization that inspired that clothing is modern western civilization story tellers with some really tinted glasses looking at various non european cultures. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2021 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ @GaultDrakkor I agree; that's the reason that I'd much rather go to the source than use something that has been distilled through many people's cultural tinted lenses. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2021 at 1:58
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The image you link contains only a forearm guard that could be called "armor". all the rest is purely decorative & ceremonial apparel. And its good you discount the games. The "fur armor" in Skyrim, especially on the females, is better described as "lingerie" $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    May 1, 2021 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


Real bone armor did exist, always as bone plates stacked to make scale or lamellar armor.

The Toraja had several designs. Bone and leather armor tends to popup anywhere they don't have metal for armor. Usually you were looking for large flat bones, like from whales or other large animals. The bone tends to be fairly thick compared to metal armor, at minimum the bone should be the thickness of a USB drive. Bone is usually sewn on because bone eventually breaks and needs to be replaced. the idea is just to prevent puncture and disperse the force of blows so bigger flat plates of bone are best. Large wide antler like moose works particularly well but is also geographically rare so people use whatever they can that is flat. no one is tying round bones to armor it provides too little protection.

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But the armor you have is completely worthless, it does not cover any of the vitals making it worse than worthless, because it does add weight and does hamper movement. It has a big gap over the chest, no protection for the abdomen, and a helmet that actually makes head injuries more likely instead of less.

Armor tends to go through the same progression no matter where it exists. First the abdomen, back, and most of the chest. That's basic protecting the most vulnerable points with the least effort and those are all places even the simplest weapon can deliver a lethal blow. Next comes helmets although the head is arguably more venerable it is fairly difficult to make a functional helmet, if you do it wrong it actually makes injury easier. Only after those areas are covered do people worry about protecting limbs. ignore what you have seen in movies no one with armor went into battle with their torso uncovered.


The Roman Vexillarius does not qualify, because it does incorporate plenty of metal in addition to the fur and skull. Native American hairpipe breastplates fit better on the material side, but they were not much in the way of armor.

But Koryak armor should be a halfway good fit. Sealskin, walrus and whale bone. Chukchi armor was similar, but without bone. The problem, of course, is that these show little skin, but that could be left to artistic license. If you've got Conan or Red Sonja in your movie, don't put them into snug and warm clothing.


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