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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 left or right arm. The armband has the name of the group printed on it.
For westerners, associations might come out wrong. Very wrong.
Anime and Manga
- Haruhi Suzumiya (pictured), leader of the "S.O.S" Brigade in the anime The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya. She wears several of these, declaring her as Chief, Ultra Detective, or whatever her current role is. She also makes an orange one for her deputy chief.
- 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.
- The creepy old teacher in Pani Poni Dash! always wears one. What it says changes every time it's seen.
- Seen on the leader of the Tokyo University Oendan Naru joins briefly in Love Hina.
- Hibari and the rest of the Disciplinary Committee on Katekyo Hitman Reborn 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, Mahou Sensei Negima's Evangeline wears an armband as "Honorary Advisor" to the Ala Alba.
- Tetsu Ushio in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and Toei anime, as leader of the Morals Group, sports one of these.
- 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.
- Kitagawa from Genshiken is seen with one of these during the anime fest.
- Haruka Suzushiro of Mai-HiME wears one as head of the Executive Committee. As she is dying from Yukino's Child being destroyed, her last act is to throw it to Yukino.
- 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.
- 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 discplinary team who gained automatic power over all other students by running around wearing scary black armbands.
- Michael Jackson, iconically went through a period of having various European and militaristic inspired 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.
- 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.
- In Persona 3 (at least the US version), everyone in SEES wears one when participating in "club activities."
- The teacher penguin in Super Mario Galaxy wears one.
- In Phoenix Wright 3, Larry wears one of these while working as a security guard. In the localized versions, it's removed.
- One of the best accessories in Persona 4 is a "Paper Armband".
- The Leader of the resistance wears a plain black armband in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension.
- The team leaders in the Winter Wrap-up episode each wear a color-coded armband.
- 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.
- 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.
- This is prevelant in the Marine Corps. It helps that Red is one of the official colors.
- 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.