Historically, "studded leather armor" simply did not exist. While leather armor was used from prehistory until the 19th century, metal studs were never added as a form of protection. In all cases where studs are visible on leather armor, the studs represent either decoration or a method of fastening multiple layers together. The studs themselves were never intended as protection.
A few close styles of armor did exist:
- Leather was occasionally used as the outer layer of multi-layer armors such as the brigandine and the jack-of-plates, and the heads of nails were commonly visible on the outside of the leather.
- The "Coat of a Thousand Nails" was an Indian armor consisting of a waist- or knee-length coat of leather with an outer layer of velvet. Thousands of tiny brass nails decorate the garment, holding the two layers together. a few steel plates (4 to 6) are often attached to the outside of the garment to add additional protection.
In practical terms, adding a sprinkling of studs to a leather cuirass would add weight without adding protection. Worse, any hard blow would drive the studs into the wearer, causing increased damage.
The idea of "studded leather armor" is the creation of 19th and early 20th century historians who misinterpreted certain historical paintings and statuary. The idea was then popularized by Dungeons and Dragons, embedding it so deeply in the fantasy genre that it will never be removed.