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Take Off Your White Belt
[06/11/2002] [Randall]

There’s a problem brewing in Amtgard. It’s the problem of people wearing white belts when they’re not knights. Some may think this isn’t a big deal, but it’s indicative of the slow, grinding collapse of our awards system. This is a rant my friends have heard for a couple of years, and I now give it to you, in all its glory.

Despite the many titles our club has, we’re not a respectful society and are egalitarian by nature. A duke is accorded the same respect as a peasant for the simple reason that you can almost never tell the difference between the two. Few people wear crowns, and most crowns tend to be bands of leather slapped on crappy garb. The well-dressed noblemen with a distinguished crown is rare indeed.

But when you get to the belted groups – page, squire and knight – you know who you’re dealing with. A page wears a yellow belt, a squire wears red, and a knight wears white. With pages and squires, there is a very small chance for confusion, since wizards and healers use yellow and red sashes, respectively. This is rare, though, as the difference between a sash and a belt are pretty obvious to most observers. It’s only when white belts are worn by non-knights that the wave of disregard and disrespect breaks the only truly visible award we have.

There will be people who’ll say this isn’t a problem at all, since company colors differ from knightly colors. There are others who say that belts with less than 50% white are fine because they’re not white enough. And there are people who just don’t care. All of them are wrong.

I remember traveling around as King of Dragonspine to various lands. I got to meet a lot of great people and have a lot of fond memories of that time. One of them, which is fond despite the embarrassment involved, is when I asked someone in a red and white belt where he was knighted. I met a really cool guy in the end, but the awkward explanation that red and white were his company colors didn't change the fact that it looked like a flame belt. [1.] Many of the knights who were there thought so, too, and were very curious who the new knight was… and that curiousity turned to mild resentment when they learned of the bizarre violation of the spirit of the garb rules.

Sure, some company belts are less than 50% white… but that doesn’t fly, either. White is a powerful color. Not only are we are naturally aware of it because of its great significance in our society, but it also, by nature, overpowers all the colors around it. White stands out. A belt would have to be almost not white at all – so non-white that we don’t notice the white unless it’s pointed out – for it to pass.

And yes, some company belts have another color in them… but so do most knight’s belts. Knights of all orders wear decorative belts all the time with various personal symbols proudly displayed on them. Nobody should have a problem with this, because the knights earned it. This is why people meet folks with white and purple belts and think they’ve met a knight. The thought that they just ran into someone with white and purple company colors is always, always secondary.

And why should company colors even matter? My personal colors were, for a time, white and red. Should I be permitted to wear a white and red belt for that reason? Absolutely not. Only a flame knight should have that right. I know a lot of flame knights who worked very, very hard to get where they are today and would never presume to insult their deeds; Amtgard’s easy recognition of the good they did is far more important than any petty desires I may have to wear red and white on a belt.

Are you in a company? Imagine another company forming that used your symbols, your colors, and added some minor change to “prove” they’re different. Are you a noble? Imagine someone wearing something that looks awfully like a crown, but is called a headband by the wearer to “prove” they can wear it despite lacking any title. Are you a class master? Imagine a belt-favor with a diagonal slash... it's a personal device, which makes it okay. After all, they’re just wearing their company colors… they’re just keeping their hair out of their eyes… they're just wearing their own symbols. Right?

Absolutely not.

A simple rule of thumb should be applied to the belts of Amtgard. White should be banned from all belts except for use as a very minor, decorative color. You can have a few small white symbols on your belt, but that’s it. White is reserved for knights.

And the knights can do more, too. I’ve met more than one knight who I mistook for a first-level monk because they lacked the dignity to keep their belt clean. Go to Clan and look around… a simple game of ‘Newbie Monk or Crappy Knight’ can keep you occupied for hours. Add in the people who have a white cord or faded leather around their waist and things get even worse. The spectrum from “Dear God, please don’t let this slob be a knight” to “Did he sluff or block that arrow with his swords?” will make your head spin.

Knighthood is blurred when it’s made mundane. If a violation of the spirit of the rules of garb is permitted, it becomes easy for people to justify all kinds of white belts for non-knights. And when that happens, a once-special title becomes even more muddied and unclear, and the only award we have left that is visible to our society and the public fades away into nothing. Amtgard is served in many ways. A little humility with regard to our distinguishing garb is a way we can all make the club a better place.

[ 1. The belt in question was a Rogue's belt, and the Rogue was Kudzu, one of the coolest guys in Dragonspine. It was my lack of experience with the Rogues combined with our kingdom's fairly cut-and-dry policy towards white in belts that led to my confusion. This article isn't aimed at any one group in particular -- there are lots of people who wear white-looking belts, and it was just a coincidence that the first one I saw was a Rogue. And for full disclosure, I'm a knight, but I was a page at the time. My opinion on white in belts hasn't changed. ]

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