Greetings fellow steamies. I've finally decided to post a blog concerning a growing issue between re-enactors/larpers/cosplayers versus military/law enforcement personnel. It is an issue that has been brought up a number of times by many of my fellow steampunks concerning the wearing of rank,medals, badges, ribbons and uniforms. Stolen Valor... While I myself have served my country with honor, I decided to forego the often misunderstood though perhaps moral high road of service member tirades and NOT wear any medals or patches that could be misconstrued as actual service issue. Not so with many steampunk personas, but that is their concern. I personally COULD NOT care what anyone brings to the party. It's just a hobby.
Now to set the record straight for the people who might take umbrage at seeing military type rank,medals, badges, ribbons and uniforms, here is the actual wiki link concerning the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
To sum it all up in one, definitive statement, the Act makes criminal the wearing of COMBAT related awards/medals for the EXPRESS intent to fraudulently obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.
This means that any other NON-COMBAT related rank,medals, badges, ribbons and uniforms, unaltered or not, are perfectly legal if not altogether ethical. Should you decide in your zeal for this fine science fiction genre to build a persona using even current military type rank,medals, badges, ribbons and uniforms, then I would advise you become familiar with the Act in the above link for this new generation of soldiers/sailors do seem to be much thinner-skinned than those who've come before. (Yeah, that was me taking a dig at the 'Red-Card' generation. They know who they are)
Well. Indeed! I pause to reflect. The key phrase from the purely legal point of view of a non-lawyer is "express intent to fraudulently, etc." So, technically the wearing of such as a reenactment, role-play, etc. prop is not a violation of the law. In my estimation, however, it is rather tacky under most circumstances. I am more inclined to give most reenactors a pass, remembering of course that some reenactors are best described charitably as farbs. You know the type, the ones who show up dressed on their own accord as General Grant, etc., or show up with an M-16A1 at the Battle of Chattanooga reenactment. This is how, as one friend told me, they had no less than four General Grants at one battle where historically Grant was not involved, but I digress. Back to the topic, I don't personally know of any reenactors who sport medals in any case, since they are usually playing on a battlefield and such things aren't worn there as a rule. They do, if appropriate to their reenactment unit, wear paratrooper wings and the like. A well organized unit will tend to regulate what a member can and cannot wear as part of their presentation. Ah well, complex subject.
As to LARPERS, Steampunkers, etc... I tend to fall on the "just don't side of the argument." A little effort and work and produce a nice set of fake "bling" to adorn yourself with and a good deal of it is available commercially. If your persona requires such things, make the effort. Personally, I would avoid some commercially available things that "steampunkify" a real award, i.e. gluing gears on a Silver Star. I have had experience with one costume I wore that apparently confused some homeless person and I can see why. It does bear a resemblance to a Marine Corps uniform and at a distance, the different color coat (black vs. blue) and the different insignia might not be enough for some. Point taken. Another costume was repeatedly referred to as Nazi at an anime con, but consider the source (and the penchant of some anime fans to wear armbands that one step removed from Nazi armbands, i.e. red, white disc, and some black geometric design in the center). Next week, I will be unveiling a side-persona in a new uniform, an American navy captain from c. 1889 in the Steampunk-verse. To my eye, it is pretty clearly not an reenactment grade production, but I expect a few will not know better. I shall take the risk, but I will not adorn it with any medals (which were rare in that period anyway). The only official medal awarded at the time was the Medal of Honor, which I will NOT wear in any form past or present. Any complaints will be handled with tact (I hope) and an explanation of intent (if listened to). My conscience is as clear as my brain. No weapons, real or fake, will be worn. That's another issue for another blog and another time. The Bear rests, carry on!