One of the major milestones that a fencer takes comes when they get their name put on their jacket. This is a mark showing that they are not only committed to fencing, but that they are invested in competition to a level of showing the world that they are here for the long haul. Of course, having a jacket stenciled with your name is a requirement for competing in every USA Fencing national-level event, such as NAC’s (North America Cup), July Challenge, or National Championships.
It’s more than just a requirement, though – getting a name on a jacket is also an initiation of sorts. Youth fencers feel a real sense of pride when they get their name put on their jackets. It’s also a big step for adult fencers, who feel that same rush of pride! There is something magical about the dark letters on the white jacket. Many fencers choose to get their name on their jacket as they get close to that level of competition in order to mentally psych themselves into improving.
There is, however, a cold hard practicality to putting the name on the jacket. To dive deep into what that can look like, let’s go through the requirements as well as the possible ways to meet them.
Specifics of name requirements
A number of rules and regulations govern where and how names are put on fencing gear.
Competitors can put their name in two places, per USA Fencing regulations. Fencing names can be on:
- The front or side of the thigh of the back leg – ie the right leg for left handed fencers and the left leg for right handed fencers. (USA Fencing allows this flexibility – other countries may vary)
- The back of the jacket or lame between the shoulders.
The vast majority of fencers put their name on their jacket or lame because it’s what the vast majority of the fencers do 🙂 It’s a bit of a follow-the-leader. Jokes aside, most of the sports put the names on the the back of jackets or jerseys. FIE (International Fencing Federation, the governing body of the sport of fencing) requires the names to be on the jackets, so it is much simpler, more straightforward, and will conform to all international and national rules than putting the name elsewhere. Internationally, knickers are used for country flags and symbols.
While domestically it’s allowed to put your name on the knicker, I am personally not very fond of this. The only advantage that I see for leg stenciling versus lame stenciling is that lames are replaced much more often than knickers due to their significantly high wear and tear in foil and sabre. There’s the loss of conductivity on a lame to consider. You might want to spare a few bucks and time by going with knicker stenciling for those weapons, but there’s a better solution! To solve this problem, keep a special, competition-ready lame for tournaments only, and use another, “training” unstenciled lame when not competing. This way, you will prolong the lifespan of the stenciled lame. For epee fencers I couldn’t find even a single reason to go with knicker stenciling.
No matter where the name is placed, it must be eight to ten centimeters high (3.25-4 inches). You’ll see all sorts of methods for putting the name on there at tournaments, because the regulations from USA Fencing leave lots of room for interpretation.
There are a few caveats that govern how a name is put on the uniform.
- The method of attaching the name cannot affect conductivity for saber or foil.
- Any background fabric has to be the same color as the uniform behind it.
- It has to be attached such that it won’t fall off during competition. An extension of this is spelled out in the regulations to say that names can’t be written on tape and placed on the uniform. Why? Because tape is not going to adhere very well for very long and is likely to peel off. No one wants to have a name fall off on the strip and interrupt the flow of competition.
Names are required by USA Fencing at NACs, the Junior Olympics, Division 1 Championships, and Summer Nationals. Basically, they are required at all national-level competitions. They are explicitly not required at regional competitions, divisional competitions, and other circuit or local tournaments. That being said, you will see lots of fencers at those tournaments with their names on their jackets, either because they are also competing at the national level, or because they are getting ready to compete at that higher level.
Note that international competitions follow FIE regulations and also require the country to be displayed on the back of the jacket, in addition to the name. In the USA you can print only your name and save about $10-$15 for not printing your country, but again, the vast majority of fencers will get their country printed as well. After all, we all are proud to be fencers representing our countries, even if it is only symbolic in most cases!
Methods of putting a name on a fencing jacket
There are really four options for putting a name on a fencing jacket. Depending on the needs of the fencer, the price they want to pay for the name, and how much work they’re willing to put into maintaining the name, different options might apply. Please note that not all options are applicable for right-of-way weapons, because lames must continue to be same conductive after the process as well.
1 – Vinyl application
Vinyl application is an increasingly popular way for epee fencers to put their name on their jacket. The reason is because getting vinyl cut in the form of a name is affordable and easy to apply. It’s also something that can be done at home if you order the name specially cut from an online vendor.
These are essentially peel and stick, so you just pull them off and place them on the jacket.
Because they’re applied directly to the jacket, you don’t have to worry about the background being the same color. They’re also crisp and clean looking, and they won’t fade.
Pros – Easy to apply at home. Affordable.
Cons – Peel off over time and must be reapplied. Judge yourself from the picture above.
2 – Stenciling
This is the most common way that you’ll see names on fencing jackets. There are stenciling vendors at major competitions that will do this for a fee, and it can be done in just a few minutes if you are lucky to get to them when they are idle. There is always a high demand for this service at large competitions. Because these vendors are standardized, you don’t have to worry whether the name will meet USA Fencing requirements.
One major tip here is to get your fencing jacket stenciled early in the tournament – don’t wait until the last day if you’ve bought a new jacket. There have been many occasions where vendors have long lines or something happened, like they ran out of ink or their iron broke. If you need a jacket stenciled, get to the venue early and drop it off as soon as you can. This way you can be sure that you get it when you need it. If you want to be prepared, you can even ask a friend who is going to a big competition a day earlier than you to have your jacket stenciled for you (the mark of a true friend!)
Pros – Standardized. Long lasting.
Cons – Fades slightly over time, especially if you are a good citizen and often wash your clothes.
3 – Direct embroidery
As far as quality goes, directly embroidering a name on a jacket is the top way to do it. With this method, you’ll have a piece that will have a very long lifespan and won’t fade over time with washing. Embroidery looks phenomenal on a fencing jacket.
That being said, it’s also by far the most expensive – even more than patch embroidery in some cases thanks to the level of work that it requires. Though you can take the dimensions to an embroidery professional, if they are not experienced with embroidering fencing jackets, there’s a possibility that they could make a mistake and your jacket will be out of regulation. Not sure a referee will pay attention to that in national tournaments, but it is annoying nevertheless.
Pros – Long lasting. High quality. Stands out.
Cons – Expensive. Potential for mistakes. Stands out (repetition here is not a mistake)
4 – Patch embroidery or Patch Stenciling
The final option is to have the name embroidered or stenciled on white fabric for epee fencers or stenciled on conductive lame material for foil and sabre fencers, then sewn onto the jacket. This offers the same high level of quality as embroidery, but with the boost of being able to take the name off and sew it onto a new jacket when it’s time to replace it.
It is convenient not to have the embroidery or stenciling redone on the jacket or lame when you get a new one, but it can also look odd to have the piece of fabric sewn on there. It breaks up the look of the jacket, and aesthetically it’s definitely the least desirable of the options, at least in my opinion. However, once the patch is completed with your name, you can take the stitching out and sew it onto the new jacket/lame yourself if you have that skill, time, and mentality, so you save money over time.
Where do you get lame material, you ask? That’s easy – cut the back (which is usually in a good condition) of your old lame.
If you choose this route, make sure that you get it embroidered on a high quality piece of fabric that doesn’t have any marks or frays. This is true if you cut out a piece of lame fabric as well. Make sure that the edges of that patch are either embroidered or hemmed so that they don’t fray.
As with the embroidery route, you also want to be careful that you meet the requirements if you have this done by someone else. If you stenciled your lame/jacket with an official vendor and cut the piece with name before you throw it out, then, of course, you don’t need to worry about compliance.
One last thing with patch embroidery/stenciling is that you can use this to cover the name of a competitor if you buy a used jacket/lame. This is most often true for youth fencers, who outgrow their clothes more often than adults. Just be sure that there is enough fabric around the name to totally obscure the previous name if it’s longer than yours (don’t try it on with such a long name as mine – oftentimes, the vendors wonder whether they are allowed to print it in diagonal)
Pros – Can be done at home. Cost-effective in the long run, especially if lames/jackets are changed often
Cons – Really?
5 – Sharpie
One thing I’ve seen people doing in a pinch is writing a name with a marker on the back of the jacket. This happens when they forget the rule and come to the national-level competition without their name. A referee usually points (or cards) such a fencer, which is quickly followed by the hectic running of a nervous parent or fencer around the venue looking for a solution on the spot. The only solution available at this time of duress is to take a sharpie and scribble your name on your back.
Pros – This sharpie-written name on your back will serve as a constant reminder to all other fencers around you to follow the rules, so you can console yourself with doing community service.
Cons – Risk of severe criticism of your lack of calligraphic handwriting, especially from a referee.
Which method should you choose?
Personally, stenciling on the jacket/lame is what I always suggest to fencers. Though it does fade somewhat over time with many washings, it doesn’t fade so much that it’s a problem. The name still looks good on the jacket, even if it’s slightly lighter.
The best advice here is to look around at what other fencers have done and see what you like for yourself. Whatever you decide to do, wear your name on your fencing jacket with pride!