The custom of wearing black armbands as a symbol of mourning has faded. But there was a time not so long ago when a black armband was as essential to the well-dressed mourner's outfit as a dark tie is in the 21st century.
The black armband was first adopted as a sign of mourning in 1770s England. During the Regency Era in England, from 1795 to 1830, men and male children were expected to wear black suits and black crepe armbands. Mourning attire reached its zenith during Queen Victoria's reign in England, from 1837 to 1901. Upon the death of the Queen's beloved husband, Albert, in 1861, the royal servants were ordered to wear black crepe armbands for at least eight years.
Worn in Protest
The black armband made its appearance as a symbol of protest during the second half of the 20th century. Perhaps the most well-known example was "Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393, U.D. 503. On December 16, 1965, three students, John Tinker, 15, Mary Beth Tinker, 13, and Christopher Eckhardt, 16, wore black armbands decorated with white peace signs to school in protest of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court of the United States decided in favour of the defendants, finding that the Des Moines School District had violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by suspending the students from school.
Worn in Honor
On March 28, 1907, Chick Stahl, the manager of the Boston Americans committed suicide. The Boston players and their opponents on the field wore black crepe bows on their left arms to honour Stahl in their game on March 31, 1907. This was the first time the black armband was worn by a baseball team, according to baseballhalloffame.org, but the practice has continued.
- Art of Mourning: Textiles
- The Jane Austen Centre: Dressing for Mourning in the Regency
- "Mourning Dress -- A Costume and Social History; Lou Taylor; 1983
- Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute, Supreme Court, Syllabus,Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393, U.S. 503
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Dressed to the Nines -- A History of the Baseball Uniform