April 21, 2015

The 3 Things You Need to be a Good Reenactor

How to Become a Civil War Reenactor

Do you need a gun? A new dress? Better display? More shirts? Trousers? The answer is: None of the above.

Reenacting has developed a "stuff" problem. And why shouldn't it have? Most people knew they were destined to reenact the moment they imagined themselves in period dress. The stuff is a big draw. It is a big part of reenacting, but it's not the only thing.

In recent years the stuff has become more important than it should be. The current trend of "Accuracy is King," has reigned long enough. The beginnings of the trend were innocent enough. Everyone wants to be as accurate as possible. It's a noble goal and it's a great thing to aspire to; however, it has had some unforeseen negative side effects that have been a great detriment to the hobby.

The stuff became more important than the people. It stratified the hobby, fostered elitism, and dare I say it--promoted bullying under the guise of help. But the time has come for this to end. In the next few years we need to see a shift from a stuff focused hobby to a community focused one.

We don't need to hear about how farby one company dresses. We need to hear how friendly they are. We need to hear about how well they interpret and interact with the public. We need to hear how much money they raised for preservation and what research they are working on. The costumes are only one little part of it. After all, people learned, taught, raised money and had a taste of the past, even when the costumes were made out of nylon. Getting nice clothing is the easy part. It's time that we focus on the harder things like interpretation, preservation and community.

When I first started reenacting, I thought that I needed a lot of things. But now I realize that we only need 3 things:     

1. Respect for the safety of yourself and others.
2. Pleasant Disposition
3. Willingness to learn and share with others.

The rest will grow from here. 

A crotchety reenactor can have the best kit in the world but they're still crotchety. A better kit does not always equal a better reenactor.

Tweet This Tweetable:A better kit does not always equal a better reenactor. http://ctt.ec/gadsV+ #worldturndupsidedown #reenactor 


  1. Comments from Facebook:

    A.C.: Agreed. I love when people tell other people they aren't good enough, then openly wonder why nobody comes out. It's about history: what happened and the people that did it. To hell with the clothes.

    J. A.: Its the right opinion even if its not the most popular opinion!

  2. More From Facebook:

    J.K.: I'll be perfectly honest, I fit the description of being a reenactor who is obsessed with the "stuff". I'm equally guilty of looking down on others that I perceive as being " inaccurate".
    I agree that this mentality has created division within the hobby, however, it's at a level I'm fine with. I have a large group of friends and we have a strong sense of community. Sure, we might all be "stuff obsessed" and slightly judgmental of others, but are still fairly accepting if you are willing to try to improve.
    I think this type of problem applies more to the Civil War reenacting world than more 20th Century periods.

    S.S.K: Well spoken...thankXXX

    H.L.: I am glad to see that there are those who are proponents of historic events. Being able to engage the younger set is very important, authenticity may have to take a back seat.

  3. Z.L.: I agree attitude is everything, but how far do you take the lack of importance in accuracy? Is the point not to interpret on a large scale an historic period? Then is recognizing one's shortcomings in the accuracy department not a desirable mentality? For if you can not understand the shortcoming and give truthful context for the learner, do you not then perpuate a false understanding of the period and the truth? Not trying to pick a fight, just food for thought. I.E. If one has an open mind, an ok kit, and then interpets the war as if Gone with the Wind were accurate does it undermind an open mind versus accuracy? sorry that was a long thought...

    Sephanie Ann: Did people learn less when the costumes were old Boy Scout uniforms? Or during the 1970s with rev war? Have we hit a point of diminishing returns where you spend resources on improving your kit but educational value has stopped increasing proportionally? I don't think accuracy is going anywhere and I'm actually a big fan of everyone improving but I think it's time to admit that it's only one small part of what we do and it's time to focus on the other aspects.

    1. Z.L.: I think it's not that people learned less but different aspects. In the 1960s and 70s material culture knowledge lagged far behind other topical interests. Today that knowledge is immense and vast and a very important piece of many reenactors personal interest. But in my experience as you point out and I agree with what we now lack in many cases is an effective way of turning that knowledge into a publicly comprehensible teaching tool without turning the hobby into a cliquish set of "equipment whores" to put it in not so eloquent terms.

      ***Editors note: If you do need something nice and accurate ^ this guy is top notch so send a message and I'll send you to him.

    2. A.C.: I've seen too many people with "superior kits" act in a condescending manner to those new in the hobby. I've seen forum posts that more or less said "If you can't get this stuff, you might as well not even bother coming." An open mind will lead to knowledge, so if someone is reenacting "Gone With the Wind" eventually someone will point out the way things really were and they will learn. However, most of what I've seen in recent years are people whispering behind others' backs as to how farby they are, and the ones being whispered just showing disdain and making fun of the whisperers. I haven't seen much interaction with spectators at events recently. People just wander through camp, ignored by most reenactors. I'd like to see the hobby switch to a more people-oriented approach

  4. Remember the old war story about David and Goliath. Goliath was equipment-heavy, tall and strong. But he was short-sighted. His approach worked - for a while. And it was the accepted approach - the king of the Jew had tried to get David to wear armor, too.In the Civil War itself, there were many degrees of equipment-heaviness, on both sides, but even more pronounced in the Confederacy, where their uniforms and their swords did not come from New England factories, but determined on each individual's ability to pay for their kits.
    Perhaps the dynamic of the well-armed (and often well-heeled) underestimating and undermining those on their own side is a predictable sort of "friendly fire" that the Confederacy inflicted upon itself.
    As we all know, those who do not remember their history are condemned to repeat it...


Tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.