Farb is a derogatory term used in the hobby of historical reenacting in reference to participants who are perceived to exhibit indifference to historical authenticity, either from a material-cultural standpoint or in action. It can also refer to the inauthentic materials used by those reenactors.
Also called "polyester soldiers", farbs are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, objects or period behavior. The 'Good Enough' attitude is pervasive among farbs, although even casual observers may be able to point out flaws.
Farbiness is dependent upon context as well as expectations and is somewhat subjective. For example, while a "mainstream" reenactor might accept an object that looks right from a spectator perspective, a "progressive" or "hard core" reenactor might consider the object to be farby if it's not made in a historically accurate manner.
The origin of the word "farb" (and the derivative adjective "farby") is often thought to date to early centennial reenactments of the American Civil War in 1960 or 1961. Some believe that the origin of the word is a truncated version of "Far be it from authentic.". Or alternately, short for "far be it from me to say what is right...but..." An alternative definition is "Far Be it from me to question/criticise," or "Fast And Researchless Buying". Some early reenactors assert the word derives from German Farbe, color, because inauthentic reenactors were over-colorful compared with the dull blues, greys or browns of the genuine American Civil War uniforms that were the principal concern of American reenactors at the time the word was coined.
The earliest use of the term, though not as the acronym it became, dates back to the Civil War itself. In a letter dated 1 April 1863 from A.R. Crawford in the 76th Illinois Infantry, Co D (here's only a portion):
Six children from the local village appeared wearing fallacious accoutrements & reprehensible baggage and thought they would put a sham battle on for our amusement. We laughed so hard at their imitation of soldiers that our sides were hurting for hours. Talk about poorly drilled fresh fish. These boys were made honorary officers starting with general down to private. They each got a penny or more tossed at them and ran off, no doubt, to delight others.
The term has been in wide use in the reenactment community since the early days.
A development of the "farb" term within Second World War reeanacting groups is the term "stitch Nazi" to describe someone obsessed with authenticity.
- American Civil War reenactment
- Authenticity (reenactment)
- Society for Creative Anachronism
- Cowboy Action Shooting
- Hadden p 209 and p 219
- Hadden p 8 Ross M. Kimmel states that it was used at the Manassas reenactment in 1961...George Gorman and his 2nd North Carolina picked up the term at the First Manassas Reenactment in 1961 and enjoyed using it constantly with condescension and sarcasm directed toward other units.
- Horwitz, Tony (1994-06-02), "They Don Period's Clothes, Eat Era's Grub and Sneer At Less-Exacting Brethern", Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2011-01-03,
Some also refuse to fight beside those whose uniforms and performance art don't measure up: a group derided as "farbs," short-hand for "far-be-it-from-authentic."
- Hadden, p 8
- Hadden p 8 Juanita Leisch calls it "Fast And Researchless Buying," and other sources insist it came from the Bicentennial and Revolutionary War groups and means "Fairly Authentic Royal British."
- Hadden p8 Farbe is a German word meaning "color," so it may have some reference to bright or inappropriate colors...
- Hadden, Robert Lee. Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor's Handbook. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999.
- Horwitz, Tony. Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. New York: Panteon, 1998.
- Wargames: Inside the World of 20th Century Reenactors (Smithsonian Books, Washington, 2004). ISBN 1-58834-128-3