Although we can all definitely agree that it takes a special kind of person to LARP, we, as a community, have a variety of play styles and interests in the game. Whether you enjoy the role-playing aspects, creativity and crafting, combat tournaments, feasting, questing, social interactions, or any combinations of the above, you are playing because you enjoy it. There are ways, no matter your play style, that you can contribute to not only your experience but also the experience of those around you.
Today, specifically, I'm going to discuss the role of garb in combat. I'm the first person to agree with some by saying garb can be a hindrance to combat. Puffy sleeves make larger, balloon-like targets. Wrap pants can get tangled and cause trips and falls. Billowing cloaks hinder movement and create large areas. Needless to say, it causes a lot of problems.
So, at what point is it an acceptable sacrifice for immersion to wear items that are not immersive? I think we can all agree that footwear during combat and questing could be considered an acceptable sacrifice. Physical safety is very important. Ensuring that everyone has proper foot and ankle support, weather-proofing, traction, etc., seems only logical. Are there options out there that could fit both immersion and practicality? Yes. Are they always cost effective? Maybe not so much for a good portion of our game or a more casual player.
What about combat clothing? There was, and perhaps is, a trend where wearing athletic clothing which wasn't exactly "immersive" was (is) perfectly acceptable. Whether it's the Nike Swoosh on your shirt or your Under Armor symbol showing. You can get away with wearing Under Armor, because you're covered in chain and it still works thematically. But in a situation where you are wearing just ADIDAS striped shorts and a nationally colored athletic shirt with your tabard and a braided belt over it, with no armor covering it, it leaves a bit much for the imagination to make up. Could there be better options?
It's hard to say for sure. Firstly, Under Armor feels amazing. It's moisture-wicking. It keeps your body cooler. It prevents sun burns. I mean, let's be real here; technology, while being much more primitive in the theme we are presenting, is advancing for our benefit. There are reasons that we use new materials now. They work.
The thing with our game is that it is not based on historical events or times. We have had events with aliens, guns, super heroes, and other non-medieval things. So, saying materials must be linen, cotton, or wool seems a bit extreme. Also, styles were vastly different. Men wore kilts or skirts in some areas of the world, and in others they wore tights. Does that mean we have to wear things only worn before 1700? I don't think so. I think we can make sure that our clothes are thematically appropriate by finding materials and styles that can mesh well in the overall setting. You should probably avoid overly modern items such as zippers, athletic clothing symbols, baseball caps, etc. However, if you'll be more comfortable in a pair of shorts than a kilt (not bashing them, but they aren't for everyone), get a basic pair of cotton shorts with no logos, or commission someone to make you some which will go well with your other garb. Same can be said for sleeveless shirts. Just cutting off collars on modern clothes and cutting a small line down the center(see keyhole neckline) can do a lot for making it feel more medieval.
As for materials, there are so many options out there to choose from. I like to use a cotton looking material that's used in leotards for a lot of my combat garb. It is breathable and believable in a fantasy setting, especially when not being worn under armor.
Bottom line is, you can keep costs down and still look the part of a peasant or knight with simple steps. Remember, it's about fun for everyone, not just yourself. Before walking out onto that tournament field or that path of adventure, ask yourself one question: do I look like I could be a model for Larp Life Magazine (TM) or do I look like a Dick's Sporting Goods advertisement?
[Editor's note: click here for a YouTube video on how to make easy and cheap faire garb]