Vijadesan custom recognizes a distinct set of color codes and their meanings in war. Warriors choose and vary their getup in battle according to their status and intentions, making it easier to recognize leaders and compare ranks. Below are my notes on Vijadesan warrior garb:
Vijadesan warriors typically wear just three items of clothing, in peace or in war:
- A headcloth;
- A breechclout, or for wealthier Vijadesans, a pair of knee-length breeches;
- An open-fronted vest.
Additional garments may include a sash, a mantle or short cape, and rarely, armor. Only the wealthiest and highest-ranked Vijadesans will wear metal armor like chain mail or lamellar, while scale armors of brass, horn, and lacquered leather are more affordable. If a helmet is worn, the headcloth is usually wound around its exterior, and plumes of pheasant, hornbill, gamecock, and other birds may be added.
Warriors with great spiritual power locked in their tattoos advertise this fact by going to battle with bare torsos, the better to display the tats. As tattoos often serve as a magical form of armor, a near-naked warrior may not be as defenseless as he looks.
Only warriors who have killed a foe in battle may wear red garments of any sort.
Most warriors will only sport a red headcloth, and wear breechclout or breeches and vest of another color. Only heroes may dress all in red and bear red-painted shields.
Many warriors skirt this restriction by wearing russet-brown clothes, signifying their status but without appropriating the heroes’ crimson.
Yellow and gold clothing may only be worn by men or women of datu rank or higher.
Pure white garments are worn only by those who have taken the Mag-Sabil rite, pledging their death in battle in exchange for berserker strength and fury. Beware the warrior in white!
Blue is the color of the Orang Pandita, the Wise Folk. Orang Pandita are considered inviolate unless armed or taking an active role in the battle.
Unfortunately for the priestly caste, this line has become blurred by the practice of working battle magic. Any suspicion that a priest or baylan shamaness is working spells for her side during battle automatically makes them targets.
Wearing coarse, undyed clothes – colored a dirty gray-brown – is the mark of slave status. There is of course no glory in killing a slave, so those wearing such clothes will usually be ignored unless they attack.
As to be expected, greater ornamentation = higher rank/wealth. Wealthy, successful warriors will bedeck themselves with earrings, armbands and necklaces, fine patterned cloths, the longer the better, and decorate every available inch of space on their weapons.
A great deal of time, effort and expense goes into the personalization of every item. Vijadesans being of naturally artistic bent, many men will spend their free time decorating their arms and armor themselves.
As one king is supposed to have said, when his son asked why he spent so much time working on his kampilan’s hilt: “Son, we have so many enemies it is likely my fate to die in battle. When that time comes, I want my slayer to make no mistake that it was I and no one else!”