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Armour is protective clothing meant to shield a human from intentionally inflicted harm. Armour has been in use for all recorded history, beginning with hides, leather, bone, progressing to bronze, steel, ballistic cloth and ceramics. Armour has been primarily a way to protect oneself from harm in combat and military engagements.

All through history, the development of weapons and armour have literally been an arms race,leading to different developments in different civilizations.

All different parts of the human body have been fitted with specialized armour pieces, and an extensive nomenclature has grown up around this. The head and face is covered by a helmet (with the face protection sometimes being a visor), hand and fingers by gauntlets, the chest by a breastplate, the lower legs by greaves and so on. Often different armour pieces will cover overlapping parts of the body, as different materials and developments in armour made for shifting fashions.

Armour parts may be manufactured using a wide variety of materials and forms. During the Middle Ages, cloth, soft leather, boiled leather, chainmail and steel plates were often used. Today, ballistic cloth and ceramic plates are the most common choises, often combined with metal alloy plates.

In European history, common armour types were the lorica segmentata, the chainmail hauberk, the gambeson and later the full steel plate armour used by late medieval knights. In feudal Japan, laquered lamellar armours were popular.

Today, bullet proof vests made of ballistic cloth and metal plates are common among security staff and in brances of the military. For military infantry applications, lighter protection is often used to protect soldiers from grenade fragments and indirect effects of bombardment.

See also: Shield, Military history, Armoured fighting vehicle and Tank