Men in white: The history of the fencing uniform

I don't do long sword

Black has become the default color for HEMA practitioners, sometimes drawing the ire of Olympic fencers who see this color as the exclusivity of their masters and coaches. This debate in itself raises some interesting questions about fencing culture and feelings of ownership and appropriation in martial arts… questions that will not be raised in this article.

Rather, we will look at the history behind the uniform. The origin of the black garbed fencing coach tradition is taken for granted as being quite ancient, but a quick look at some of the historical artwork from previous centuries shows very little instances of fencing masters wearing black. How did white and black become the staple of hierarchy in modern fencing? It appears that the history of fencing garment is not as uniform as one would think (pun intended).

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157195046cc4219f7a6a92d80a17b0cd The ubiquitous HEMA look

One thing which is quite evident when looking at…

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