or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Classic Menswear › black arm band
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

black arm band

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've been curious about this for awhile and so far have found little information so I thought I'd post about it here. I've seen it in a number of old films, most notably It's a Wonderful Life. Does anyone know the history behind wearing a black arm band for mourning? How long is it usually worn? Is it primarily associated with a certain faith? Has anyone here ever worn one? Any ideas on what material it is, or where someone would get one?
post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by js4design View Post
I've been curious about this for awhile and so far have found little information so I thought I'd post about it here. I've seen it in a number of old films, most notably It's a Wonderful Life. Does anyone know the history behind wearing a black arm band for mourning? How long is it usually worn? Is it primarily associated with a certain faith? Has anyone here ever worn one? Any ideas on what material it is, or where someone would get one?
I think arm bands went out of fashion (At least in democracies) after WW2 and that it is probably a bad idea to wear one.
post #3 of 17
I like how arm bands look. I like the thom browne stripped sleeve too. It could be very stylish for casual wear if done correctly. I would not use one for mourning though. You should be very minimalistic when dressing for a funeral.
post #4 of 17
I believe the black arm band came about by those serving in the military who were not able to wear the proper mourning clothes or for those who were too poor to afford them. To this day I've only seen them worn by old veterans in Europe. Unfortunately the symbol has been taken up by racist and militant groups here in the U.S. to signify membership. I'd avoid wearing one.
post #5 of 17
Interesting question to which I do not know the answer. I watched a few episodes of the first season of "Brotherhood" (Showtime's organized crime/political series) over the weekend. In at least one of the episodes, a high-level labor union representative wore a black band "mourning" the loss of a union member who met an untimely death from the business end of a shovel. That series' setting is roughly current, so I presume some people still follow the tradition. In this case, IIRC, the mourner and the mournee were Irish Catholic.
post #6 of 17
Dates back at least to medieval times. The phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" is related to the courtly tradition of a woman tying a band/token around her arm in jousts, etc.

The military "brassard" is derived from similar traditions.

Here's a mid 19th century portrait with children wearing them after the passing of a family member.

post #7 of 17
Football (soccer) players still do it if commemorating the death of a fan or old past player.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by emmanuel View Post
I like how arm bands look. I like the thom browne stripped sleeve too. It could be very stylish for casual wear if done correctly. I would not use one for mourning though. You should be very minimalistic when dressing for a funeral.

i agree, but i had seen it as worn by the bereaved for a period of time after the funeral, since it would be impractical to wear black for a week or more to show mourning. i just like the idea of showing your loss in a simple understated way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cary Grant View Post
Dates back at least to medieval times. The phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" is related to the courtly tradition of a woman tying a band/token around her arm in jousts, etc.

The military "brassard" is derived from similar traditions.

Here's a mid 19th century portrait with children wearing them after the passing of a family member.


wow, very informative. i had actually heard something about the relationship to that phrase, although i was never sure of the exact connection. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by southbound35 View Post
Interesting question to which I do not know the answer. I watched a few episodes of the first season of "Brotherhood" (Showtime's organized crime/political series) over the weekend. In at least one of the episodes, a high-level labor union representative wore a black band "mourning" the loss of a union member who met an untimely death from the business end of a shovel. That series' setting is roughly current, so I presume some people still follow the tradition. In this case, IIRC, the mourner and the mournee were Irish Catholic.

I had a feeling that if anyone were to still observe this, it would be Catholics. BTW how is that show? anything you would compare it to?
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by triniboy27 View Post
Football (soccer) players still do it if commemorating the death of a fan or old past player.

I didn't know that, but I like it.
post #10 of 17
When Norway's King Olav V died, I was in the army; i remember there being a lengthy morning mourning assembly and parade, which culminated in the handing out of black armbands to officers, to be worn until the funeral, IIRC. I butchered a wikipedia article for you all: Nowadays there is no special dress or behaviour required for those in mourning and even the wearing of black at funerals is in decline. Traditionally however there were strict social rules to be observed. By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes. Women bore the greatest burden of these customs. They involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. The entire ensemble was colloquially known as widow's weeds (from the Old English "Waed" meaning "garment"). Special caps and bonnets, usually in black or other dark colours, went with these ensembles. There was even special mourning jewellery, often made of jet or the hair of the deceased. The wealthy could also wear cameos or lockets designed to hold a lock of the deceased's hair or some similar relic.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Film Noir Buff View Post
I think arm bands went out of fashion (At least in democracies) after WW2 and that it is probably a bad idea to wear one.
Mourning attire became less customary after the mid-twentieth century, by which time it had already been determined that mourning was not to be worn in the business arena. It is still customary, though not as universal, to indicate mourning through somber, semi-formal dress, particularly at the funeral and among the family and close friends of the deceased. As such, men often wear a suit and tie, while a woman may wear a dark-colored, long-sleeved dress or pantsuit.
Quote:
Originally Posted by robin View Post
I believe the black arm band came about by those serving in the military who were not able to wear the proper mourning clothes or for those who were too poor to afford them. To this day I've only seen them worn by old veterans in Europe.
Amongst polite company the wearing of simply a black arm band was seen as appropriate only for military men (or others compelled to wear uniform in the course of their duties); wearing a black arm band instead of proper mourning clothes was seen as a degradation of proper etiquette and to be avoided. Friends, acquaintances, and employees wore mourning to a greater or lesser degree depending on their relationship with the deceased. In general, servants wore black armbands when there had been a death in the household.
Quote:
Originally Posted by southbound35 View Post
Interesting question to which I do not know the answer. I watched a few episodes of the first season of "Brotherhood" (Showtime's organized crime/political series) over the weekend. In at least one of the episodes, a high-level labor union representative wore a black band "mourning" the loss of a union member who met an untimely death from the business end of a shovel. That series' setting is roughly current, so I presume some people still follow the tradition. In this case, IIRC, the mourner and the mournee were Irish Catholic.
The armband is still seen, but mostly amongst Irish, German, Austrian, and other northern- and central-European Catholic groups such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. A few modern customs have evolved, for example the use of sunglasses in order to hide tear-swollen eyes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cary Grant View Post
Dates back at least to medieval times. The phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" is related to the courtly tradition of a woman tying a band/token around her arm in jousts, etc.
The custom of wearing unadorned black clothing for mourning dates back at least to the Roman Empire, when the Toga pulla made of dark-colored wool was worn during periods of mourning. Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, distinctive mourning was worn for general as well as personal loss; after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Huguenots in France, Elizabeth I of England and her court are said to have dressed in full mourning to receive the French Ambassador. Women in mourning and widows wore distinctive black caps and veils, generally in a conservative version of the current fashion. In rural areas of Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece widows will wear black for the rest of their lives. The immediate family members of the deceased will wear black for an extended period of time.
Quote:
Originally Posted by triniboy27 View Post
Football (soccer) players still do it if commemorating the death of a fan or old past player.
Mourning is used as a statement of respect, solidarity, commemoration, or protest by a particular group in an unusual circumstance. For instance:
  • The wearing of black armbands by the Israeli Olympic team in 1976 to commemorate the attack on the team during the 1972 Olympic Games.
  • A sports team may wear black armbands, or affix a black stripe to their uniforms, for a specified time period following the death of an owner, coach, teammate or (if the decedent is a high school student), classmate.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by southbound35 View Post
Interesting question to which I do not know the answer. I watched a few episodes of the first season of "Brotherhood" (Showtime's organized crime/political series) over the weekend. In at least one of the episodes, a high-level labor union representative wore a black band "mourning" the loss of a union member who met an untimely death from the business end of a shovel. That series' setting is roughly current, so I presume some people still follow the tradition. In this case, IIRC, the mourner and the mournee were Irish Catholic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by js4design View Post
I had a feeling that if anyone were to still observe this, it would be Catholics. BTW how is that show? anything you would compare it to?
I really enjoy it. I didn't start watching until the third season (hence my now watching the first). I'd liken it to a cross between The Sopranos and The Wire. You get a bit of the organized crime aspect of The Sopranos with one of the main characters being part of the Irish mob; and you get a bit of the political aspect of The Wire with the other main character being a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Since the two are brothers, it makes for some interesting drama.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Lucky Strike, thanks. I appreciate all the time you put into that and I definitely learned most of what I wanted to know.

southbound35, I will check that show out this week. hopefully it is on demand...
post #13 of 17
I visited a friend at Queens' in Cambridge some years ago (maybe 5) and saw that some of the elderly fellows of the college were wearing black armbands. I asked my friend who had died, only to be told that they were 'mourning' the first admission of women to the college in 1988, some 15 years before.....
post #14 of 17
Black mourning bands are still worn by police officers over their badges as a sign of respect. Most departments have specific rules for the wearing of the band.
post #15 of 17
It's fairly typical these days for me to wear a black armband out of respect for fallen StyleForvm brothers.

Some days, I wear two or three at once.

Sad, really.


- B
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Classic Menswear
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Classic Menswear › black arm band