Some time ago a young man approached me and asked if I was familiar with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). I assured him that I was, and he asked if I was a member, and I responded with this story:
In every genre of historical role playing there are always two differing styles of participation. The one group tries for historical accuracy to the point of perfection while the other views their participation as a way to share in the fun with a minimum of historically accurate discomfort. The SCA strives for a real Medieval lifestyle. They weave their own cloth, use only cotton thread and forge their own tools. Yes, I'm aware they combat with foam and duct tape and generally use port-a-potties, but for the most part, they strive for authenticity. Now, the other side to this coin-of-the-realm is the player who may range from a performer to a "playtron". They love costumes and Celtic music, but they prefer "flushies" and hotel rooms.
More contemporary re-enactors also display this duality. There are the Civil War soldiers who load their own black powder, wear wool underwear and sleep in the rain. But again, there are those who put on Wild West accoutrement, carry blanks and fall off buildings for fun.
In other words, in any style there are the "purists" and the "players". I assured my young inquisitor that I, for one, always fall into the second category.
Now, I say all of this to bring up one pressing issue that I continue to run headlong into at various Renaissance Faires. . . The Costume Nazi! This loving soul comes to the position usually with two major qualifications. They own a picture book of costumes, and they have the personality of a wet badger. Buttons, not zippers. Period footwear! No glasses! No paisley! And, God forbid, no metal shafted umbrellas. Their job is to keep the faire looking "period".
This confuses me on several levels. I've never actually been to a true period faire ["How do you know he's the king?. . . He's the only one who hasn't got sh*t all over him!"] Jousting isn't Renaissance, Chinese umbrellas aren't either. Neither are Goddamned foxtails! And, for the most part Royalty didn't go to these market faires. I've never seen a flogging or a beheading. There aren't any lepers in the street, and where did all the fairies come from? Oh, yes, can you say open sewers, beggars p*ssing in the streets and livestock. I knew you c o u l d n' t.
Faires. All faires are fantasy faires. They are entertainments designed to provide patrons with fun while sucking money from their pockets. They don't care about anything but a good time, and that's the ONLY reason we exist at all! If you teach them a little history, it's an accident. And while you did it, you taught them a dozen incorrect facts.
Costuming should be unique, special, memorable, laughable, and . . . practical. When historical accuracy becomes a stumbling block to survival for cast and crew, the Nazi must be tossed in the oven! If it's pouring rain and my crew backstage needs an umbrella, screw you! They get an umbrella. My shoes will have arch support and good tread, and they will be built on right and left lasts. I bet yours are too, Adolf.
Take a deep breath!!!
OK. This is supposed to be fun for me, too. And it will. You may be kept in the dark and fed bullsh*t like a mushroom. But me, I'm a fungi (fun guy)! Get it? I didn't think so, it's not period.