HISTORICAL ARMOR USE
Soldiers have worn armor from antiquity to the modern age. However the effective armoring of the whole human body to withstand personal melee combat has not been in use by government or professional soldiers since the late 17th century. Business being what it is, if we do not use a knowledge or skill in general production for even one generation, it is essentially lost. Think of traditional blacksmithing. Although not ever actually lost, it has taken decades of work by modern smiths to relearn a skill that was common knowledge just 100 years ago.
The knowledge and ability to effectively and completely armor a soldier has existed in our past. For many centuries soldiers wore complete armor in life or death struggles against skilled individuals using edged weapons, mass weapons, and projectile weapons. The armor being issued currently is less effective at stopping these weapons than that of our ancestors. Reports of soldiers being killed by arrow or machete are common.
The needs of the ancient soldier were not significantly different from our needs today. The armor needed to be protective, cost effective, mass producible, and not restrict the wearer in weight or movement. Research using exact reproductions shows that contrary to many common myths and perceptions, historical armor was not only protective versus these attacks, but it was also not significantly restrictive or debilitating to wear.
It is only when nearing the end of the era of personal armor when the designs attempted to provide steel based defense against the developing firearms did armor became excessive or cumbersome. This is the point where the balance of weapon materials and technology exceeded the armor materials and technology to the point where personal armor became obsolete or restricted to the torso and head, the most critical regions which also require less mobility.
Modern materials and production capabilities have given us the ability to change the balance back. However, the advantage of using modern materials alone is insufficient. Our ancestors had centuries of practical knowledge with the design of anatomical defense versus melee attacks. It is only through the direct applied analysis of their defenses and understanding the reasons for its effectiveness that we can achieve the synergy with modern materials and production capabilities to produce truly effective personal armor for the modern and future soldier.