Many of us might be familiar with the recent news that the Fred Perry Company has stopped producing a particular style of polo shirt because the clothing has been adopted by the fascist Proud Boys and similar neo-Nazi scum. In light of that, the Everloving came across an interesting article in BuzzFlash which led to others supplying a brief historical background to the uses and abuses of fashion by fascists.
For example, Manjima Bhattacharjya wrote in her Firstpost column titled “Dressed to kill”, that the age of high fascism and fashion are inextricably and insidiously linked.
“The Italian fascist party through the 1930s and 1940s systematically employed the fashion industry as a tool to mold the cultural expressions of nation, class and gender in the ‘new Italy.’” After the Nazi occupation of France, “Hitler used fashion as propaganda, organizing photo-shoots of stylish people in Paris alongside his soldiers, to show that people were living happily under the occupation.”
Fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, author of Worn on This Day told Fast Company:
“The appeal [of the Perry shirts] for the Proud Boys seems to be in its laurel wreath logo—a sports reference inconveniently reminiscent of Nazi imagery—and specific color combinations,” Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran noted that “Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial flag, for instance, featured a black swastika in the center of a yellow wreath.”
On October 8, Glossy’s Danny Parissi reported that
“Groups like the Proud Boys have a long history of co-opting fashion brands and aesthetics to appeal to potential new members, and that aesthetic has been moving further toward high-fashion. (The polo sells for $90 at Bloomingdale’s.) For the brands who these groups latch onto, the association can be hard to shake.” The same article noted that “Dr. Martens, whose boots have been a staple in British and American fashion for decades, has long been dogged by associations with Neo-Nazi groups and skinheads, who adopted the Doc Martens boot as part of their aesthetic in the 1980s. That association has followed the brand ever since. In 2017, the brand was criticized widely for a billboard showing a black boot with red laces, a color combination that is often worn by skinhead groups, with the red laces specifically denoting that one has ‘spilled blood’ for the cause.
As Howard Graves comments, there is little the companies can do: “The furthest reaches of it are out of the brands’ hands. If the Proud Boys want to keep saying they love Fred Perry and wearing Fred Perry, they’re going to keep doing it. They’re relentless. But I tend to think that an open refutation of groups that are co-opting your brand for fascism is the least you can do and heartening when I see it.”