Sunday, December 30, 2012

On Badges (and Badgers)

I have an awesome brother. Proof? Here he is cheering for me at the 2010 Cincinnati NAC.

Note the abstract simplicity of his badger poster. (Why "badger"? I didn't choose the nickname--it was bestowed by a teammate, and the only explanation he would offer is "it describes your fencing." This comment, after much mulling, resulted in my tag line, "Badgers: small, fierce, stubborn. Not too bright.") 

In any case, this year my bro continued his awesome streak with an Xmas present that consisted of--Badger Patches!

This gift also gave me the impetus I needed to post about badges in general--one of the most ubiquitous ways to liven up a uniform. 

There is a stunning array of badges at the average competition, and I've only begun to scratch the surface. Borges-like, I'm working on a benevolent taxonomy to organize this huge array. For example, badges can be:

A way to show identification and solidarity, uniting you to your teammates in the vast sea of competitors. This sleeve sports both country and club affiliations. (Hi, Three Rivers! You rock.)
While many club badges are minor variants on the theme of club name/weapon, some make epic leaps of creativity. Isn't the Savannah Fencing Club's patch GREAT?

And this SFC club member also sports a patch from my second category: badges as a way of expressing individuality. Smokey the Bear? Fencing? Why not. 

Smokey also demonstrates the power of badges to function as social objects--"engines of socially networked experiences, the content around which conversation happens." In other words, giving a shy person like myself the opening to meet someone by asking "hey, what's with the bear?" 

Last, and most poignantly, badges can memorialize, like this arm band worn by the New Mexico Fencing Club in memory of a lost teammate--Connor Porter


What a wonderful way to honor a young man's memory and celebrate his love of fencing. 


I am faced with the much less solemn task of deploying the badges my bro hunted down for me. One went straight onto the removable foil case from my Leon Paul equipment bag.
Others are going on my sleeve (I'm experimenting with placement. The lead patch will still be my club affiliation, Rockville Fencing Academy.)

Not even all these badgers can complete my badge ambitions, however. I still hope to find a copy of this patch to add to my collection: 

It celebrates a project that aspired to put a Linux-powered robotic marsupial on the moon. I think this is a suitable analogy for my fencing aspirations.

Do send me or Allison photos of your fencing patches--we would love to share them in a future post. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Referee Runway Style

The December NAC in Milwaukee was fertile fashion ground. On my off day (and in moments snatched before and after competition) I cruised the venue, looking for innovation, humor and inspiration. I found plenty, which Allison and I will expand on in coming weeks.

First, referee fashion. Come to think of it, referees have almost as little scope for fashion flair as the fencers. The referee's handbook stipulates: 

"The uniform for men is a navy blue blazer, gray trousers, shirt and tie. The uniform for women is a navy blue blazer, gray skirt or slacks, and a blouse... It is requested that all referees wear appropriate shoes and leave athletic shoes to the athletes."

Bleah. No wonder a typical gathering of referees has all the visual interest of a flock of penguins

 But clearly some referees bring sartorial pride to the strip.

For example, the regs don't specify what KIND of tie

Bow ties are classy

Apparently there is also some leeway in interpreting "appropriate shoes"

 Well, these certainly aren't athletic shoes. Nice nail polish.(Did I feel stalkerish trying to photograph a referee's toes? Yes, yes I did.)

Pins also have great scope for spiffing up a drab blue blazer


(I particularly appreciated the addition of a little non-fencing related bling to the venue.)

But my vote for "Best Dressed Referee" for the December NAC goes to this gentleman

Can you tell me his name? I only wish I'd thought to ask him if his shirt had French cuffs. I suspect it did. 

Your pictures of referees' sartorial splendor most welcome. Post a link in comments, if your pic is up on Flickr, Instagram, etc. Or email me and I will include it in a future post.