Tell me about symbolism in clothing.
July 17, 2008 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in symbolic clothing.

I'm just curious if there are any other cultures/subcultures than karate which use something like the coloured belt system. It's not the same as medals for certain achievements, or symbols of class (like purple being a colour only royalty may wear). Some symbol that shows how far along you are in an ability you are working on mastering. Something that shows what "level" you are.

I find the concept interesting, so I was just wondering. :)
posted by giggleknickers to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
priests. doctors (the longer the white coat, the more senior you are). officers in the military. there are lots.
posted by buka at 8:40 AM on July 17, 2008

Scottish Rite Masons wear different colored caps to symbolize different awards and achievements. Someone with a white 33 degree hat is instantly recognizable amongst a sea of black, 32nd degree caps. This is probably the case for many fraternal organizations or the military.
posted by mattbucher at 8:43 AM on July 17, 2008

also, piercings, body paint and ritual scaring among traditional hunting tribes in africa.
posted by buka at 8:44 AM on July 17, 2008

I doubt this is what you have in mind, but the gay hankie code might be of interest. While it's not set up to indicate any sort of degree advancement, it's fair to say that someone brandishing more obscure hankies-- or else an array of them-- is deeper into that culture, which indicates an informal sort of "degree."
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:44 AM on July 17, 2008

Skinheads/Neo-Nazis and red/white shoelaces?
posted by k8t at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2008

Yes, the military officers would be the best example. It goes beyond rank insignia, too. For example, in the WWII Army (not sure about today), only paratroopers are allowed to blouse their trousers.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2008

Don't forget the sashes worn at college graduations. Your level of degree and what you major in controls their appearance.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2008

Members of the LDS faith that have proven themselves to be worthy of entering the temple and have gone through ceremonies there wear white undergarments as part of covenants made at that level of membership.
posted by bradly at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2008

I don't know why I expected otherwise, but [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST]'s gay hankie code link is NSFW. Heh.
posted by vytae at 9:08 AM on July 17, 2008

Scouts. Athletes. Roman Catholic clergy. Motorcycle gangs. And plenty of others, I'm sure.
posted by box at 9:26 AM on July 17, 2008

Members of the Legion of Honor may wear a red thread in their lapels.
posted by rdr at 9:32 AM on July 17, 2008

When a maiko, or apprentice geisha, trains to become a geisha, her collar under her kimono starts out red and more and more white embroidery is added to it as she progresses in her training. When she "turns the collar" or becomes a full-fledged geisha, her collar will be completely white.

There are many, many more status symbols attached to kimono, but this one was the most obvious and it is attached to training.

Source and all-around informative site: Immortal Geisha.
posted by bristolcat at 9:34 AM on July 17, 2008

Ribbon bars
posted by Rhomboid at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2008

When I was working as a butler in a country club, I remember asking the chefs why their hats were different heights. The Head Chef had a tall, thin hat that scraped the top of the door frame when he poked his head out of his office to shout at us. The Sous Chefs had shorter, boxier hats. The line cooks and Pastry Chefs wore floppy, beret-like caps.

Turns out, it has to do with seniority and status in the kitchen. The taller the cap, the higher the status of the chef. One of the line cooks moved up to being a Sous Chef, and there was a little ceremony where he got his new cap.
posted by elmer benson at 10:06 AM on July 17, 2008

The yellow jersey signifying the current leader of the Tour de France?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:27 AM on July 17, 2008

Doc Martens boots and laces.. some colors had different significations, skinhead, anti-racist..
posted by citron at 11:29 PM on July 17, 2008

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