As I was watching yet another episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" from around 1957, I noticed a scene where this man has a black cloth on his arm:

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What does this mean? He doesn't wear it throughout the entire episode -- only at home, for a single scene, and it's not mentioned or referred to in any way, so the episode itself gives me zero clues as to what it might mean.

I think I've seen it before as well, in office settings.

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    Did you look at black armband in Wikipedia. Its usually associated with mourning a death. Did someone associated with this individual die previous to the scene? – justCal Mar 12 at 4:06
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    Do you have any reason for believing that it does not mean the same as it did before the 1950s and has meant since the 1950s (which is mourning a death, as justCal has commented? – Lars Bosteen Mar 12 at 8:32
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is easily answered by a quick Internet search. – TheHonRose Mar 12 at 10:31
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    +1 I wouldn't closeit: 1) the fact that the question is not historical is debatable and maybe culture based. Mourning dress has changed a lot in the last decades, and I would say that I have never seen a black armband except for old photographs of my grandfather mourning his father. 2) To be able to answer the question in a quick Internet search we would need to know the precise words. The closest result with quick Internet search in my language was a band to hold a mobile phone for runners. Therefore, I see this question as an interesting historical question. – Pere Mar 12 at 13:44
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    @Pere Interesting. When I type black arm band into Google the Wikipedia page mentioned by JustCal is the very first result returned. It's also hardly just an historical thing. For example, football teams still routinely wear black armbands to signify grief / mourning. – sempaiscuba Mar 12 at 14:15

Those are typically worn to designate mourning in Western culture. However, its very rare to see them on anyone other than a man who has just or is just about to attend a funeral, usually as one of the pallbearers. Additionally, its only worn if the person in question doesn't have an appropriately black or dark suit coat (or dress) to wear, which is preferred.

Given that, if I saw someone in media depicted as wearing one, I'd think the writers wanted me to know that he'd recently gone to a funeral (or was on his way to one), without actually having to waste dialog explaining it to me.

Its basically a big flag that reads "someone died".

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