The Power of Dress

In Charlottesville, and on television screens across the country, Americans watched a stunning scene unfold this weekend. But they mostly saw hate.

Swastikas, shields, pepper spray, makeshift clubs and speeding cars filled the airwaves as society descended into total chaos. These are universal symbols of hate, chosen less for their ability to effect change than for their symbolic power.

Photograph by Edu Bayer for New York Times

Photograph by Edu Bayer for New York Times

Neo-Nazi behavior is not new in this country. It was present during Dr. King’s national protests over 50 years ago, where intimidation and fear often accompany moments of profound historical change. But this historical tradition of resurrection excuses neither the behavior nor the ideology.

Photograph by Ivan Massar

Photograph by Ivan Massar

Photographer unknown 

Photographer unknown 

Denim has a rich history of political protest; one example we at DENIMCRATIC are particularly proud of, is the use of denim clothing by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC for short) during the 1960’s civil rights campaign. The SNCC participated in sit-ins, confronted the Klu Klux Klan and marched on Washington in ‘63.

At that march, still the most significant protest in America’s social conscience, a particular memory stood out to a student protester named Anne Moody. She realized on stage that she was “the only girl from Mississippi with a dress on. All the others were wearing denim skirts and jeans.”

In a powerful paper, Tanisha Ford notes how denim became the fabric of choice among female protesters in celebration of sharecropper clothing traditional worn by African American women of a previous generation. Denim had a working aesthetic, and in Washington in 1963 there was work to be done.

In Charlottesville and around America today, it is again time for hard work. It is the hard work of breaking down barriers, standing in the face of venomous speech, embracing hate and moving this country forward. At DENIMCRATIC, we’re proud to work with a fabric with a rich cultural heritage of accomplishing just that.

Photograph by Ivan Massar

Photograph by Ivan Massar

Gabriella Meyer