Pants (or trousers, depending on which country you’re in) are something we don’t talk too much about in HEMA.
We don’t talk about what we wear on our legs in large part because fencing pants aren’t a critical part of someone’s gear set - many women, for instance, just wear leggings. When I’m training, I just wear shorts. The same can’t be said for gloves, jacket, or mask.
So, why bother wearing fencing pants?
- They’re build to allow for a greater degree of flexibility in your stance.
- They go above your waistline to ensure you will be covered if your jacket rises.
- Most have hip protection, which is one of the places in the lower body where the bone is close the surface.
- Knickers are fucking cool.
PBT is a Hungarian company that has been around in the sport fencing world for some time and is quite popular with HEMAists in Europe. It’s not as well-known in the states as it should be, partially due to not having a distributor, partially due to people being suspect of the reasonable pricing.
PBT’s 350n pants have been out for some time, and are based on their sport fencing design.
How do they fair? Let’s find out.
Review Experience / Methodology
I ordered the pants directly from PBT, since they don’t have a distributor in the US. They did not know my intent to write a review for the pants, and I paid full price for them (approximately $105 USD).
I ordered two pair on two separate occasions (I, uh, put on some weight in the tummy), and have been wearing both for over a year now. I have worn them now at over 15 tournaments and wore them regularly at practice.
Construction & Materials
PBT’s tailoring is fantastic, 2nd in my experience only to Gajardoni. The stitching, for the most part, is solid. The fabric is breathable and stretchy, but thick enough to provide protection.
Unlike the SPES Knickers which has a different fabric in the groin to allow for deep stances / lunges, PBT’s knickers are made out of the same material throughout.
However, I find the mobility in the PBT’s to be higher than the SPES pants. This is most likely due to the fact that the SPES pants, in general, have less stretch - it’s only the groin that has any stretch in it.
The hip pads are a closed foam, coated in rubber. These things are FANTASTIC - they’ve never once gotten in the way, and I’ve taken some nasty hip strikes that would have disabled me during the fight if they weren’t there. They’re easy to remove from the velcro pocket on each side of the pants.
The close at the waist a combination of a zipper and some velcro. I wish this were a little more robust - the velcro tends to slip due to there simply not being much of it. Their new 800n pants have a much better design in this area (but they have their problems - I’ll be posting a review on them soon).
After extensive use, the velcro, as velcro tends to do, is falling off of the pants. Thankfully it’s not damaging the pants; the stitch simply is falling out.
Keep in mind - this is a pair that I have had for over a year and have worn extensively. This is the only repair I need to perform on the pants, and a quick drive to my tailor would have it done in minutes.
If it weren’t for the velcro, you would think the pants are brand new. Unlike the SPES pants that tend to fade over time, these have retained their original black with no signs of fading, despite dozens of washings.
There isn’t a single sign of wear and tear on any of the material, on either pair that I train in.
The pants are fantastic to fence in. They breath well, and never once have I been frustrated at them for not letting me fence the way I’d like.
They move with you, stretch where they need to, and absorb shock where it’s needed. I’ve said this before, but I don’t believe in avoiding the ‘ouchies’ when it comes to HEMA.
Pain that leads to bruising means you’ll respect the strike you just received. I want protection to cover parts of my body that could receive permanent damage - bone and nerves, specifically. Outside of targetted protection, gear should support your fencing, nothing more.
I was able to buy realistic sizes and have the pants work for me. Considering that my legs are larger than most folks, I typically have to go a size up, but there was enough room in both the waist and legs that I feel comfortable wearing them at all times.
PBT has been fantastic to work with. I have purchased three pairs of pants from them now (two of the 350N, one of the 800N), as well as a coaching jacket.
Every order had shipped when PBT promised, often times with two day shipping at a very reasonable price.
They respond to every email, even the frustrated ones, with respect and kindness. I believe there was once where they went a few days without communicating, and they apologized profusely. Compared to many HEMA vendors who think a week turn around time on communications is acceptable, I’ll take PBT’s standards.
PBT deserves far more respect in the US than they get. High-quality gear, extremely reasonable prices, fast turnaround times, and good people.
I can see myself buying from them for years to come - like SPES, they invested a lot into helping out the HEMA community, and they deserve our respect.