Below is a letter I wrote to Put This On about problematic fashion choices and an incident that happened near my house:
I recently read this post.
I also live in Los Feliz next to Atwater Village and learned about something that happened here this weekend.
I also am a progressive liberal jew that owns a whole bunch of Fred Perry polo shirts.
I was aware of the Proud Boys group wearing these shirts or ones like them in the past but shrugged it off. I would say to myself something like, "The prior assumption in this area is that all people are politically far left and so would therefore not infer that you are a Proud Boy by wearing this shirt." or "Most people here don't know what a Proud Boy is or what shirts they wear so this clothing choice will not be mistakenly interpreted as a political statement." These statements no longer seem valid.
I won't wear my yellow-trimmed Fred Perry shirt anymore but I was wondering if there's more to discuss.
Is there any kind of work that should be done on reclaiming this style? It is more important to me to feel good about my choices than to have access to one style of shirt that I like but that being said, it doesn't seem fair that a group or movement can just claim a thing and then it is ruined hence forth. Would there be a way to reclaim this for liberals who look good in Fred Perry polos? Styling it differently, etc.? Is there historical precedent for reclaiming a style? I know wearers of Doc Martens differentiated themselves with colored laces when the style was co-opted by white supremacists. For now, I will stop wearing my yellow-trimmed Fred Perry polo, but I am wondering if there are more active steps I could take with my dress to protest the presence of the Proud Boys in my area.
This is somewhat tangential but I think it's interesting how this group is using this specific style choice to further its goals of confusing its public reputation. The Proud Boys seem to try to distance themselves publicly from being tied to fascism and nazism but any investigation into the group makes quite clear that they are at the very least a hate group.
Using Fred Perry is germane because it references prior styles and movements like British skinhead which in and of itself became problematic. I think this furthers the group's mission of obfuscating its underlying nature by outwardly referencing something that can be construed as liberal, punk or edgy and hip but also has ties to hate groups of the past just as the British Skinhead movement was co-opted by hate groups in the late 60's and 70's.
Also, and this is even more of a tangent, what of the effect on businesses who make these clothes? Fred Perry as a company has publicly disavowed the Proud Boys. What about the negative effects on their business? Are they obliged to take any action beyond press releases? Wouldn't it be interesting if Fred Perry announced that some portion of profits from said shirt would go to support LGBTQ groups or some other such cause?
I feel very new to taking style and dress seriously but I am very interested in this topic. I would love to see a further discussion about it on Put This On.
Thank you for your time reading this.