Since the dawn of civilization, humans have covered themselves with all manner of things, from leaves to animal skins. What we wear has come to represent who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. The old adage still holds true, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have now.” When I look in the closet in the morning and select an outfit, I am selecting a persona and a personality for my day. I want my clothes to say something about me to the world, maybe something that I can’t even verbalize.
Increasingly, what we wear has taken a back seat to who we wear. Brands that range from outdoorsy Patagonia to high fashion Gucci and mall store favorite J. Crew, have begun using their platform to stand behind political and environmental issues. For example, Patagonia has always been known for its use of environmental materials, but it has now become the poster child for a corporation that is using its platform to push more political initiatives. It has begun paying DC lobbying firms big bucks in order to organize against the Trump Administration’s anti-green policies. Just yesterday, J. Crew and sister-brand Madewell, announced their first collections of eco-denim that are made in facilities that are Fair Trade Certified. The pieces of clothing that we put on our backs and put our dollars behind symbolize a political choice in ways unheard of until now.
Another more radical fashion choice, a white hood, has been historically synonymous with a group of individuals that have harassed blacks and other minorities in America: The Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the KKK lynched black individuals, set fire to property owned by blacks, and generally terrorized anyone who stood with the struggle for racial equality. In recent years, the white hoods have disappeared, but the sentiments that they represented have remained. Some of those sentiments have been taken up by another group of people wearing another type of head piece: a red MAGA hat.
The hat, popularized and monetized by the Trump Campaign, has come to be worn by his supporters and some of the most radical of the right-wing alike. MAGA hat wearing individuals have terrorized Native Americans and beaten black and gay actor Jussie Smollett in as many weeks. And the White House has been silent in decrying their actions while wearing the President’s chosen apparel. Now, I am not saying that he is responsible for the actions of these people or that he caused their behavior. I am saying that his silence is a tacit endorsement that if you want to harass people that don’t look and think like you, you have a uniform to wear.
What you wear matters because it showcases who you are and what you represent. I don’t want people to burn their red hats or hide them in their closets. I want them to wear it proudly so I know who you are and who I should be afraid of. Right now, that hat is as scary to me, a black, gay American, as a white hood. It does not have to be that way. You can reclaim the hat and act with kindness. Show me that I have nothing to fear by you making that fashion statement. I want you to live up the words on the hat itself: “Make America Great Again.” America is made great by treating everyone with respect and protecting those that are marginalized. America is made great by listening to people that you might not agree with, not cursing them out. America is made great when we each are allowed to express ourselves and our love equally. If you want to wear the words, you have to live up to the example of what those words could mean.