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" There is no more honored sterward than he who compassionately serves; not out of subjugation, but moral obligation."

THREADS
A word on Costumes, Battlesuits, & Uniforms

Ever ask yourself, "does this cape make my butt look big?"

    Different equipment to suit the needs of the individual. If the clothes truly make the man, than cowboy up, it’s time for a fashion lesson you’ll find more handy in alleys than runways.

    Protection, range of movement, durability, price, how obvious it is, the style of the garment/armor, how easily it can be maintained or laundered, and what environmental conditions it will be used in are all factors to consider.

    Assuming you live on Earth, you know how hot it gets in summer, especially in the south. Of course, if all your missions are community service oriented (public relations) then Jack over at http://hero-gear.net/default.aspx is the right route for you. I can think of at least half a dozen guys or gals right now that wear his product. You’ll probably recognize his handiwork on some contestants from “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?”, comic book & sci-fi convention goers, and of course, me. And from what I can attest, he does pretty good work.   

    On the flipside of the coin, let's say you approach things less like Squeegee Man and more like Nostrum. You rough a few punks up, and you're bound to get a tear wearing spandex. While not right for everyone, here's a possible solution. In the wake of the X-Men and Daredevil flicks we're seeing a shift to practical and utility "battle suits".

Check out some motorcycling pants from Vanson Leathers. 
http://www.vansonleathers.com/

    Expecting some rough and tumble? Got ya covered. Many riding pants (and jackets for that matter) come designed to accommodate removable armor and high density foam pads. And if your heart desires a uniform look, get the one or two piece racing suit. Either setup provides comfort, durability, and ventilation. However they don't come cheap, so shop around. Vanson's high end competition-grade, so if you have the money... well ...give it to me. Rent is due and my car isn't making its own payment. Hey, we can't ALL be Bruce Wayne.

    Logically 100% leather isn't the smartest option if you plan on wearing them all the time. Choose a textile or composite like cordura. Launders better. A more economical investment would be Alpine or Joe Rocket.

 

    And anyway.... ARE you expecting combat? Because the spidey suit idea is kinda nonfunctional as a combat uniform, UNLESS you planning on not getting struck at all. (no offense intended to Jack or anyone who buys from him, cuz I have one of his battle shirts). Worn under clothes, by the time you observe a crime, you either have time to intervene or to contact authorities. If you have time to both to protect your identity then you're probably lucky, but the time it would take to change is a probably a prohibiting factor. Better off scheduling set patrols during the week, and if you can, help civilians when you're able to.
 
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  Armored Leather Motorcycle Jacket

    Not to sound callous, but your favorite fictional heroes who influenced you the most should not be the deciding factor when it comes to selecting a uniform/battlesuit. Their personalities and actions are motivating sure. But bullets don't bounce off me. Or you. Mimicking their costumes is not a life saving choice, however by emulating them in the design then fine, more power to ya. But be utilitarian about your selection. You get what you pay for, and if you take care of your equipment (read uniform) it will take care of you.  

    I choose the practical route. If you want to make comparisons to characters in movies, I'd have to say for this work, again, X-men, Daredevil or the Batman Begins uniforms are the most practical choice for combat-orientation. I have large goggles, a mil-spec flight suit, tactical boots, and a motorcycle riding jacket with some dense core foam. For me, I find this will allow me the freedom of movement and the protection against abrasion and force.... Once I get some more padding and armor. With a little tailor modification you could insert a ballistic/trauma plate or a back protector on this jacket, for example.

  Anywho, just me thinking aloud...well..typing aloud..... moving on.

Gloves

    My recommendation HATCH. Hatch provides quality gloves and other protective gear for uniformed duty, tactical, corrections, military, industrial safety/medical rehabilitation, and more. Hatch brands include Friskmaster-- cut resistant gloves, Operator-- Tactical Gloves, Centurion-- and ExoTech® disturbance control gear and B.O.S.S. tactical eyewear.

http://www.hatch-corp.com/

    Also, from personal experience, I love my Shelby extrication gloves. They are used in fire rescue departments when an occupant becomes trapped in a vehicle and the car needs to be peeled away from them. Very cut-resistant, and I do almost any manual labor wearing these because they are comfortable and allow for a hell of a lot of dexterity. I have two pairs that have lasted me two years. The only wear I notice is the sun bleaching, thinning of the rubberized fingertip grip, and the logo is peeling off. That's all!

http://www.shelbyglove.com/index.html

...and it looks cool.

Goggles

    After perusing a thread in which I read about Nostrum's unfortunate loss of vision in his left eye, I thought I might share something about eye protection. I hope in the interest of self-preservation as well as awareness, the Big N will not mind me having used him as an example.

(portions of this article have been taken from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eyeinjuries.html )

    The structure of your face helps protect your eyes from injury. Still, injuries can damage your eye, sometimes severely enough that you could lose your vision. Most eye injuries are preventable. If you play sports or work in certain jobs, you may need protection.

    The most common type of injury happens when something irritates the outer surface of your eye. Certain jobs such as industrial jobs or hobbies such as carpentry make this type of injury more likely. It's also more likely if you wear contact lenses.

    Chemicals or heat can burn your eyes. With chemicals, the pain may cause you to close your eyes. This traps the irritant next to the eye and may cause more damage. You should wash out your eye right away while you wait for medical help.

    For examples of trauma to the eye and treatments: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec20/ch227/ch227a.html 

    As always, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Taking a few steps to prevent injury is your first defense. Choose a style that is a wrap around, or uses a strap to secure to your face. Recreational Sport type, occupational safety, or public safety/military/tactical will probably be the best sources to begin your search. You only have one set of eyes, therefore remember the 3 F's: Form Follows Function. Incidentally, a good theory to apply in all aspects of your uniform. 

    Lenses: choose a durable material, like polycarbonate, or even Lexan. These have beneficial attributes of being highly shatter resistant. Glass will end up in shards with one smartly delivered blow to your face.
Also consider the time/place of your patrols. Daytime? Opt for smoke tint, or polarized. Night time? Consider yellow or amber lenses like those found in shooting glasses or motorcycle goggles. The lighter tint actually helps highlight in low level light conditions.

And if you're really in a bad situation, check out http://galls.com/gaweb.dll In the event you get shot point blank in the face, these offer some resistance. OR if you're on a budget like me, go to a hardware store and look for glasses with ANZI Z87.1 on the packaging. This is an occupational safety standard, much like OSHA. Oh and be sure to pick some with good ventilation so they wont be fogging up.

Cowls

Looking for a professional looking cowl? Or maybe a domino mask?
 
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Check this site out, it’s got a ton of prosthetic latex or resin costume/uniform accessories.

http://www.xtremedesignfx.com/

EDIT: here’s an addendum from Phantom Zero.....

 

The sculpts I saw in the Heroes section looked good.

A warning on the cowls: perhaps good for costuming, but I think it would be bad for everyday patrol use. These masks are made of latex. Same stuff pull-over Halloween masks are made of. The process they are made by is likely the same, too.

LATEX MASKS

A mold is made of someone's face (using alginate or similar skin safe casting substance). A plaster cast is made, which is a replica of the person's face. Clay is used to sculpt the mask on the plaster. Then another mold is made, this time out of plaster.

Plaster is porous, and absorbs moisture. Latex is poured into this mold, and then poured out. The latex sticks to the sides of this mold and is allowed to dry before the process is repeated. Many layers are built up, which bond to the last, creating a thick sheet of latex (about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch for a mask). This is known as a slush mold process.

Why are cowls bad? Anyone who has worn a full face pull-over Halloween mask should know that there are inherent problems with slush mold masks. If the latex is too thin, it is prone to tearing. Also, any hollows are prone to wobbling. If it is too thick, it is heavy and uncomfortable. There is no way to custom fit it unless it was made specifically for you (barring trimming the mask itself, and that can weaken the structure as a whole). It is hot, and sweat makes it wet (with no means for the heat or moisture to escape). Any paint applied needs to "bond" with the surface, thus acrylic and another substance (an adhesive) is needed for it to stick It may wear, peel, or crack. It needs to be stored on a stand so it retains its shape. Latex eventually breaks down from contact with skin's natural oils. Exposure to extreme heat or cold, chemicals, or sunlight will degrade the latex. It is nearly impossible to fix if it tears without leaving unsightly scars.

There are ways you can compensate for the inherent drawbacks of a mask such as this. You can wear an absorbent material underneath (such as cotton) to absorb sweat. Limit the amount of time you wear it. Find a neutral filler, like open cell foam, to fill the negative space. Talcum powder prevents sticking and will help get your mask on.

Of course, if you can mass produce your own latex masks. This isn't a problem. However, if you are shelling out $100-150 a pop, it could get dicey.

LATEX APPLIANCES

Popular for domino style masks. A slush mold latex appliance may not blend well with the skin if it is poorly made, since you want the edges to be thin and fanned out, but in the case of a superhero mask, that may not be a problem (it may even be desirable to make it look like it is part of the face). Acetone can be used to blend the edges. Spirit gum or a surgical adhesive is used to put the mask on and take it off. An appliance may be fouled after a few applications and removals.

OTHER OPTIONS

It all depends on your budget and the look you are going for. Cloth works well, as it is breathable, absorbent, washable, and durable. It’s also fairly commonplace.

Leather is another good material. Weather stitched, formed, or pressed, it’s usually more comfortable than latex, more porous and breathable, and becomes more-so with time. It’s fairly durable, but certain special care and use is required (if you've ever owned leather shoes or a baseball glove, it’s made of the same stuff). Immersion in water is bad.

For appliances (not full face masks), nothing beats gel filled silicone. The temperature regulates to match your own, it is exceptionally durable, resistant to most chemicals, and moves with the face much better than foam latex or slush molded latex. It has a good shelf life, too. Reusable. The downside is it’s expensive and difficult for a novice to work with.

Jack runs Hero Gear. He comes highly recommended by other Real Life Super Heroes who will most definitely vouch for the quality of his work and service. His masks are spandex, and for custom commissions, unbelievably affordable. There are also testimonials and plenty of examples of his work on his site.

http://www.myspace.com/herogeardotnet

http://www.hero-gear.net

Masked Bird is a Real Life Super Hero who is keeping the ancient craft of leather forming masks alive and well. Masked Bird offers quality craftsmanship.

http://www.myspace.com/maskedbird

 

 

 

 

 


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