Fencing Gear Guide
The team has gear that the students can use, so there is no need to run out and invest in a new set of fencing gear. Beginners should show up in appropriate attire for gym class, I highly recommend sweatpants that cover the legs and compression shorts as under garments.
If you choose invest in your own gear, I recommend the stretch synthetic versions of garments because they usually dissipate heat and sweat better and are generally much more comfortable and durable than the cotton versions. It's a slight increase in cost, but one that I feel is much worth it.
Jacket: The fencing jacket is a multi-layered cotton or nylon jacket with a universal back zip or a right or left handed zipper. It features a doubled over collar which acts as a "blade catcher". When one starts competing you should get your last name stenciled on the back.
Pants: Fencing Pants or Knickers as we call them in the US (which promotes snickering from our UK counterparts) are knee length with a high waistband held up with suspenders. The fly may be right or left handed to prevent it from catching a point.
Glove: You only wear one glove fencing, and that will be with your dominant hand. Your glove must be in good repair to compete with no holes. Foil and Epee gloves have a standard resilient material for the palm and fingers with padding across the back of the hand.
Saber gloves feature a conductive cuff and are required to be rated for an 800 Newton penetration test.
Plastron: This half jacket is worn under the fencing jacket and is required for all fencers in competition. Its purpose is provide extra protection to the vital organs and is constructed so that the seams on the plastron will not align with the seams on the jacket. This protects against a blade penetrating at a weak spot.
Blades are either FIE rated or not. FIE rated blades are NOT required for competition in the USA but are often of higher quality than non-rated blades. As such they are usually more expensive.
Purchasing your own blades for competition, you will want to get an electric wired blades.
Foil: This light blade with a small guard and a rectangular profile is what most fencers will start with. For competition there are many options, you will want to take into account the flexibility and weight of the blade when purchasing. I recommend the two prong German socket rather than a bayonet. I recommend German points rather than French ones.
Epee: The epee is larger and heavier than a foil with a triangular cross section. The socket is universal with a three hole socket so there is little variation there. I recommend German style points rather than French or Screwless.
Saber: Saber blades are lighter with a triangular cross section and unless you have some very old gear lying around must be S2000 compliant. Two prong German Sockets are recommended.
Grips: Foil and Epee can be purchased with a multitude of grips which are either right or left handed: French (traditional) grips, Visconti (most popular orthopedic), Belgian, Russian, Rambeau, Zivkovik and some others. These come in various sizes as well. I recommend the Visconti grip in an appropriate size for the hand.
Saber grips are pretty much all the same. There are some new trigger grips on the market but I am not sure if they are widely adopted.
The mask is a critical piece of kit to protect the face, neck and head. It will routinely be punch tested for safety, the velcro strap and the bib must be in good repair. Getting the right size mask that fits well and securely is very important. I recommend getting the smallest size that fits and squeezing it from the top and sides until the fit is perfect.
Wars have been fought since the dawn of time about what is the best fencing shoe. There are purpose built fencing shoes from Nike and Adidas as well house brands from the major vendors. Some fencers swear by court shoes for Indoor Soccer, Volleyball, Squash or Badminton. All of them are quite passable. The Nike and Adidas fencing shoes are most popular at major competitions.
Any low soled court shoe is fine. Avoid running shoes with thick soles, basketball shoes with high cuffs. Look for something with a durable toe box and a rounded heal.
Absolute Fencing Gear
If you choose to get your own gear, Absolute is a local and national vendor of fencing equipment located in Bridgewater NJ. Because of the proximity they are an excellent choice to go try gear on and discuss options with the helpful staff. The house brand is a good value and an excellent choice for a first set of gear.
Located in Bernardsville NJ, Fencing Armour is accessible and available to try on gear and get assistance from the staff. The house brand of gear is of very high quality.
Located in NYC this is one of the older vendors of fencing gear.
Located in NYC, Radical Fencing maintains a storefront where you can try things on and test them out. The House Brand has made several innovations in closures and fabric straps aimed at greater comfort.
Online Vendors: I highlighted the local vendors above, each maintains an online shop. Here are some of my favorite online only vendors.