People around the globe, from peasants to kings, have used armor as a form of protection in war. Made from bark, bone, wood, cotton and metal, armor typically shields only the torso. Complete suits that cover the entire body are exceptional. Although much armor is undecorated, the broad flat surfaces invite artistic expression that might announce the wearer’s culture or social position.
In societies in which only elite warriors could afford well-made, highly decorated body armor, elaborate artwork on the surface helped to confirm and signal their elevated status. With the advent of firearms, metal armor became ever thicker and heavier until it was finally abandoned. However, body armor continued to be used well into the 20th century in many parts of the world where firearms remained scarce.