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In the 2001 film "A Knight's Tale", the protagonist (William) enlists the aid of a female blacksmith named Kate. She designs new armor for him which is lighter and affords more mobility. Specific attention is brought to the etching she made on the armor, which she calls her "mark of trade":

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Set in medieval times, the film is full of anachronisms and references to modern pop culture. Given that the etching was never mentioned or shown again in the film, I can only assume that the "mark of trade" was a reference to the modern trademark. The only logo/brand I could think of that's close is the Nike swoosh, but I'm hoping someone involved with the production explained it further.

What (if anything) is Kate's "mark of trade" a reference to?

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    Nope...that's exactly what it's supposed to be. It's product placement...and a joke.
    – Paulie_D
    Dec 24, 2017 at 17:47

3 Answers 3

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It is definitely a thing for Master craftsmen in certain trades, especially in stone masonry and carpentry where you would often get many craftsmen working on individual components of larger structures which needed to fit together.

Being able to identify who had made a particular part gave a systems of traceability and also ensured that each craftsman got paid correctly for their work.

Also more generally, at a time when most goods were handmade, the reputation of a Master Craftsman was important as a way for customers to gauge the quality of the goods. Indeed the modern term 'brand' probably comes from the master brewer's marks burned onto wooden casks of beer.

Even now most blacksmiths have an individual mark which they stamp, engrave or etch onto their work.

In precious metal jewellery the hallmark is still very important and is highly regulated to ensure the precious metal content of sold items and like masons marks this dates back to the medieval craft guild system.

Essentially a master craftsman's mark is a guarantee of quality in that the owner of the mark has met the required standard of skill set by their guild

It is probably safe to assume that the resemblance to the Nike swoosh is a joke but the basic concept has historical validity.

It is also true that the best plate armour needed to be custom made to measure for its user.

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According to this site, it was product placement (although it may also have been unintentional ...). But in keeping with the rest of the movie, it is probably meant to be a joke.

Product Placement: Not that the movie got any money for it, but that trademark that Kate etches into her armour? A pair of upside-down Nike swooshes.

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Funny thing, Nike was created by a man named Phil Knight. Not sure if writer's intended it, but he had a similar story about never giving up to achieve your dream.

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