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Red Armband of Leadership

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In Japanese society, a method for identifying the leader of a group, be it the leader of an Ouendan or a club or group president, is to look for the red armband on the upper arm. The armband has the name of the group printed on it.

For Westerners, associations might come out wrong. Very wrong. Except for Russians, who used similar armbands quite innocently during the Soviet period. Plain black armbands have a much different connotation - they indicate that the wearer is either mourning a lost comrade, or that they're an anarchist.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aho Girl: Fuuki Iinchou wears one, symbolizing her role as Discipline Committee Chair.
  • Mikan wears a red armband to take the stage to run the student council meeting in the first episode of Manabi Straight!.
  • Spoofed in Jubei-chan 2, when the former rival now comic relief Shiro Ryujoji has a red armband that states he's not the leader; he recently got into High School so isn't in charge anymore. He assures everyone including the audience that the armband will be real next year, really.
  • Mendo in Urusei Yatsura leads the "Shadow Scholastic Life Leaders", a group of teachers' pets that use red armbands when trying to apprehend students trying to sneak out to buy lunch during school.
  • Seen on the leader of the Tokyo University Oendan Naru joins briefly in Love Hina.
  • Hibari and the rest of the Disciplinary Committee on Reborn! (2004) wear them.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann's Simon wears a red armband which used to be part of Kamina's cloak. He didn't become a leader until rebooting from his Heroic BSOD, but after that point, it was incredibly appropriate.
    • Simon just grabs a stray piece of cloth and ties it to his arm on a whim early in the series, long before he's the leader of anything. Only later does the band become a symbol of his office, as well as an item of great personal significance.
  • During the summer festival, Negima! Magister Negi Magi's Evangeline wears an armband as "Honorary Advisor" to the Ala Alba.
  • Medaka Kurokami, at the start of Medaka Box, wears one as the Student Council president. She also wears all the other armbands (none of which are red) because at the beginning she's the only member of the Student Council. Later she starts giving out the rest as she recruits new members.
  • They're actually white, not red, but the lieutenants of the Gotei Thirteen in Bleach all wear armbands emblazoned with the emblem of whichever squad they're part of.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Smurfs story "The Order of the Smurfs", Hefty and Brainy wear blue armbands as police officers.

    Fan Works 
  • Not an armband, but in Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust, a prequel fanfic to Disney's Peter Pan movies, Cassidy wears a red feather on her hair, which symbolizes her position as the leader of the Lost Boys until she dies in chapter 4 and the feather is eventually passed on to Peter. Yes, the feather Peter wears on his cap is important.
  • Defied in Contract Labor: when she's appointed hall monitor, Sarah refuses until she's allowed to not wear the armband, because, as an American, wearing one of those to her has much different connotations.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • For The Next Karate Kid, they needed to make the opposing karate student character that each film got fit into a high school Jerk Jock mold. Since there is possibly no high school in the Western hemisphere where the top karate student ends up at the top of the pecking order they made up some weird paramilitary hall monitor disciplinary team who gained automatic power over all other students by running around wearing scary black armbands.


  • Michael Jackson (yeah, really) went through that period of having pseudo-militaristic costumes with double breasted jackets and the ilk. Some elements he would carry through everything he wore including an armband of leadership. You can see this especially in Moonwalker where he'll be in '30s gangster pimp clothes and preppy jumpers but still have that armband. Cause he's the King of Pop?

  • The third series of Penny's Box Blind Bag Collectables series "School of Fancies: School Haunting" has this on two of the dolls in the set. Panda girl Chairman (of the student union) Bai Mao and Tiger girl Director Amber are both wearing red bands (with Chinese writing) on the left arm of their uniforms showing their positions in the student union.

    Video Games 
  • The lead character in the game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (depending on the difficulty level) will wear an armband, with the name of the group on it.
  • From the Persona series:
  • Kiyotaka Ishimaru from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc wears a red armband with the words "public morals" on it to signify his status as a hall monitornote . He becomes the leader of the students who were trapped in Hope's Peak Academy rather quickly, and decides to hold frequent meetings among the group.
  • Although not a separate piece of clothing, Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series is always shown in official art with a distinctive red stripe on his/her armor (and it will show up in-game if you wear any of the default N7 armors). This is a direct reference to a similar adornment given to Real Life NASA mission commanders (see below).
  • Team Fortress 2: In the beta, several of the classes wore their class symbols on such armbands. Presumably Valve realized this would result in Unfortunate Implications, especially for the Medic, who is German and probably old enough to have served in World War II, so eventually, they went with shirts/jackets that have the class symbol on the sleeve instead.
  • Guild members in Rakenzarn Tales wear armbands to identify themselves to the Knights.
  • In Yandere Simulator, all of the club leaders wear these.
  • In DmC: Devil May Cry, Vergil wears a blue Brassard/armband/armlet. with ornate scrollwork.
  • In Silent Hill, Lisa wears one of these to denote her specific nursing license (SPN, maybe Specialized Practitioner). It's a bit odd though, considering how much the game bases its character design off of American media.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Cinder, Emerald and Mercury all wore white armbands while posing as Haven Academy students. However, the armbands seem to be part of the standard Haven uniform and don't signify anything.

    Western Animation 
  • The team leaders in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Winter Wrap-up" each wear a color-coded armband.
  • When they thought Superman had been killed, the members of the Justice League took to wearing black armbands with their uniforms.

    Real Life 
  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, which is why this got the Godwin's Law treatment. The armband was usually made in the same style as the Nazi flag, with the white circle and black swastika adorning it.
  • Life Imitates Art: At Anime Punch, an Ohio anime convention, all members of convention staff wear red armbands. (Mostly to make them easily spotted by attendees.)
  • From Apollo 13 onwards, NASA gave the mission commander's spacesuit red bands on the arms to make it easier to distinguish the two moonwalkers in photographs.
  • In association football, the captains for each team wear armbands to distinguish themselves to the referees. Red is not an uncommon color.
    • Same goes for the captains of field hockey teams, although they tend to be worn on their ankle rather than their arm.
  • In ice hockey, linesmen and referees wear the same jerseys, with the only difference being the armbands worn by referees. While the NHL prefers orange, some hockey leagues use red.
  • At MCRD San Diego, Platoon Guides from 1st Battalion wear a red armband with their platoon number in gold.
  • Military Police throughout the world will typically wear armbands imprinted with the internationalised standard designation "MP" (even by forces that aren't actually called 'military police' per se in their respective languages, like the German Feldjäger, whereas others use the local language equivalent, like the Greek Stratonomia's "ΣN".
    • In the United States Army and Air Force, military policemen sometimes (depending on where they are stationed) wear black armbands identifying them as law enforcement (in both English and the local language). Certain other personnel fulfilling special roles (Inspectors during training exercises, for example) will have similar methods of identification.
  • In USSR, red armbands were most often used to identify druzhinniks (lit. men-at-arms), volunteers who assisted the police. This appears to have been revived in post-soviet days; by concerned citizens' militias who have taken it upon themselves to assist the authorities in policing anti-social or deviant activities. (people demonstrating against the government or campaigning for politicians other than Vladimir Putin, for example).
  • The French National Police's plainclothes officers typically identify themselves by wearing fluorescent orange armbands.
  • Vietnamese schools have the sao đỏ (Red Stars), who wears red-and-gold armbands that say their position. They serve as assistants to the teachers and staff, helping enforce order in assemblies, ensure that students and classrooms are presentable, catch kids trying to enter the school after the day's activities have begun, etc. In many schools, red stars (especially those zealous about their duties and becoming power-mad) are often hated and may be ostracized/bullied, not to mention the guarding duties cutting into their study time.