Kit Review: Superior Fencing "16th C. HEMA Jacket 800 N"
These jackets have become pretty much the standard jackets of my club and, at the last count, I think over half of our club members now use them. As far as I can see they also seem to be very common throughout the Australian clubs as well. However, most of the orders for our Club have taken place as collective efforts and one observation is that it definitely seems like Superior Fencing handles these larger orders better than an individual order (see below).
One thing to observe about Superior Fencing is that they seem to have designs that are surprisingly similar to other designs on the market but better made and with better touches. Possibly this is an advantage of making each one individually, they can better incorporate upgrades and improvements as they go. This jacket reminds me of a Neyman Fencing Renaissance jacket but it has improvements like ventilation grommets etc.
Finally, I've had this jacket for 5 months now and have been using it regularly for everything from small sword, sidesword, rapier and longsword. My previous jacket was a SPES Axel Pettersen which I bought in 2012 and this largely forms the basis of my comparison, I am also aware of more recent SPES and Gajardoni jackets through other members of my club.
A bit about the ordering process with this company. Their website is easy to navigate, the information clearly outlined and sizing etc is easily understood. I found that they responded quickly, concisely and intelligibly to emails. However, they are based in Pakistan so there are a number of challenges around this mainly that you have to send the money through Western Union which requires some hassle to set up. I also had a "problem" with the money transfer whereby there was some dispute about whether the money had been transferred or not despite my having a Western Union receipt, they did resolve this (at their end) but I did spend a week or so thinking that I'd been ripped off. After I'd squared away these problems the fabrication and postage were pretty quick, and all up it was made to my order and on my doorstep in about three weeks.
All up this jacket including postage to New Zealand cost me 230USD. So, it's pretty affordable compared to SPES, Neyman, Gajardoni etc.
When you order this jacket you can specify whichever custom features please you at a minimal cost: I ordered mine without the little peaks on the shoulders, which I find aesthetically displeasing, and with ventilation grommets.
The jacket was well made and all the sewing was neatly done with no loose threads or seams coming undone and needing spot repairs. The quality has also lasted quite well over the last 5 months and nothing has thus far needed any adjustments or small repairs. I have washed it in the machine numerous times (possibly once a fortnight, so 8-10 times since I've bought it) and it has dried out readily enough without too much colour washing out. It also hasn't taken on a particularly offensive smell like some synthetic clothing can.
It was broadly made to my measurements and I find it fits really well. The arms, shoulders, and torso are all the correct length for me and I find that the jacket fits nicely without constraining me in any way. It was also not overly loose with flapping fabric or awkward bulges. There is a tightness adjustment strap at the back which works well.
I found that the jacket had a nice balance of padding, providing suitable bulk to be cushioning without being overly stiff and restricting movement.
The large grommets used on the jacket provided a good level of ventilation and I have found it much more bearable to wear during hot weather. In fact whereas previous summers I've largely fought in a fencing jacket and arm guards, this summer I've stayed in my padded jacket throughout.
One of the selling features for me was the "petals" at the bottom of the jacket covering the tops of the thighs. Aesthetically I'm not a big fan of these, however, I appreciate the extra protection these offers. These are well constructed and while probably don't add significantly to the protection these are a good extra to have.
The double zipping double overlap on the front is probably standard now for these jackets but it's another nice touch.
The jacket is described as 800N and I certainly ordered this, however it's actually labeled on the jacket as 350N. I thought this might have been a mistake but another couple of club members who ordered the same jacket at 800N all got 350N jackets. Now, this isn't a massive deal for me as there is no requirement at our club for 800N, I personally don't see much point in this and I certainly hadn't considered that I'd paid "extra" for this. However, if that was a deal breaker for you, you should be aware and check upfront.
Otherwise, I'm struggling to say bad things about this? It's a little larger with the petals and therefore doesn't fit as neatly into my bag? That's about it in terms of downsides...
It's a great jacket - affordable, well made and fits great. I have a few quibbles but at the price and quality, it's well worth it.