It’s no secret that many beloved fashion brands of today have uncomfortable connections with the past.
While today’s extremists can’t claim such elegant associations, they understand the role fashion and iconography can play in developing and reinforcing a group identity.
We often think that extremism is easy to spot based on the appearance of swastikas and skulls. But that’s not entirely the case anymore.
Here’s a brief look at three right-wing groups that use benign fashion choices to signal their extremist views.
The Proud Boys
Formed in the runup to the 2016 election, the Proud Boys are known for being chauvinist, violent, and wildly supportive of Trump.
The feelings are apparently mutual. When asked to condemn the group during the first debate, the president said*, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
Out in public, members of this guys-only group wear black and yellow collared shirts designed by the British brand, Fred Perry.
However, they may soon need to find a new supremacy supplier. Fred Perry recently issued a public condemnation of the group.** They also announced that the company would cease sales of the design in the US and Canada.
Perhaps they can look to Twitter for new wardrobe suggestions. In recent days, the LGBTQ community has trolled the group, suggesting “Leathermen” instead.
The Boogaloo Bois began as a loose association of meme-slanging bros hanging out on 4chat (the armpit of the internet). But, in recent years, members have emerged into the real world as a far-right, anti-government group.
Despite its humble origins (an 80s breakdancing film), the term “Boogaloo” became online code for an impending civil war. To escape the scrutiny of content moderators, it constantly evolved, becoming “big igloo,” then “bug luau.”
Hence, the odd choice of Hawaiian shirts.
However, sadly, these Bois have traded surfboards and shakas for firearms and flags. The group operates as a standing militia willing to do anything to defend their first amendment rights.
Formed in 2016 by a former marine, Dillon Hopper, Vanguard America is a white-supremacist group.
Despite its military origins, the group has made some fashion choices are uncharacteristically normcore. Clad in khaki pants and white polos, members look better prepared to caddy at a country club than incite mass chaos.
While Vanguard America denies his membership, James Alex Fields, the man who drove his car through the Charlottesville rally in 2017, killing one person, wore the same outfit, and had pledged allegiance to the group.
Since that event, the organization has experienced in-fighting, leading to the splintering of the group.
However, one of those upstarts, the Patriot Front, hasn’t strayed far from the dress code. They continue to wear khaki (albeit cargos) but have traded out the polos for rain parkas.
Same wolf, different clothes.
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*The president later disavowed any knowledge of the group; however, the organization took it as a clear directive and endorsement.
**To be clear, Fred Perry was never linked to the group in the first place.
Proud Boys image via Getty / Vanguard America image via Hawes Spencer & New York Times
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