Fashion and politics in the age of Trump

A look at what people wore to express their politics during Trump's first year in office.

Posted: Jan 20, 2018 12:09 PM
Updated: Jan 20, 2018 12:09 PM

The weekend of President Donald Trump's Inauguration, Washington was filled with people wearing clothes that said something about their politics. MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporters walked past pussyhat-wearing Women's March protesters on the sidewalk. They shared Metro trains and exchanged silent, nervous glances at each other's buttons and shirts. It had the feeling of a sporting event, with rival political slogan tees in place of jerseys.

Clothing is one of the most visible ways people express their politics, and in the first year of the Trump administration, political clothing made news early and often. Below are six items that tell the story of Trump's first year in office through fashion.

The Pussyhat

Washington was a sea of pink pussyhats the day after the Inauguration. LA screenwriter and Pussyhat Project founder Krista Suh told the Los Angeles Times she came up with the idea for the hat, which took its name from Trump's "Access Hollywood" comments, because she needed to keep warm when she traveled to DC for the march, and its simple pattern -- a box that turned into cat ears when worn -- made it an instant DIY #resistance fashion statement thanks to online tutorials on how to knit your own.

The Los Angeles store where the pussyhat was first sewn, Little Knittery in Atwater Village, had to move after the owner's landlord said her lease would not be renewed last year. And because the hat is seen by some as not inclusive to people of color or people who are transgender, it may not be as widespread at events marking the anniversary of the Women's March. "There's a few things wrong with the message," Women's March Michigan founder Phoebe Hopes told the Detroit Free Press. "I personally won't wear one because if it hurts even a few people's feelings, then I don't feel like it's unifying."

Ivanka Trump brand

In February, Nordstrom announced it would not longer sell items from Ivanka Trump's brand. The company had said its decisions about what products to carry are unrelated to politics, and dropping the Ivanka Trump brand was due to sales. But President Trump lashed out, tweeting they had treated Ivanka unfairly ("She is a great person," he said "always pushing me to do the right thing!"). His tweet was RTed by the official @POTUS account and the following day, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway gave Ivanka's brand what she called a "free commercial" on "Fox & Friends." "Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would tell you," she said. "Go buy it today, everybody." The next day, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Conway had been "counseled" for promoting the line and her comment drew a rebuke from the Office of Government Ethics, but US sales on Amazon jumped 332% in January and February 2017 compared to the year before, according to a Slice Intelligence report.

Almost a year later, you still can't buy items from Ivanka Trump's brand at Nordstrom, but some Trump supporters have taken to wearing the brand as a way to show support for the President and his family, even if items are made overseas in countries like China and Indonesia. "When you think about it, what clothing isn't made overseas," Trump supporter Bethany Rhoads told The Washington Post.

Winners and Losers tee

Confederate statues across the country came down this summer after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The national debate about Confederate monuments that followed was one Trump jumped in on. "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted.

Rapper Killer Mike weighed in himself that month with a line of tees, sweatshirts and patches that trolled those who want to keep the statues up called "Winners and Losers (Check the Scoreboard)." The graphics featured a scoreboard with the timer set to 18:65, a reference to the year the Civil War ended, and the score: Union 1, Confederacy 0. The line made a statement about Confederate statues as participation trophies for losers, and used a typically conservative frame to celebrating the Union's victory in a boastful, patriotic way, a Civil War version of "Back to Back World War II Champs" shirts and tanks.

Second-Generation MAGA hats

The "Make America Great Again" hat found a new life after the 2016 campaign, remixed and rereleased in a way no modern campaign merchandise has before. Trump ditched the original MAGA hat weeks after Election Day, donning a "USA" hat with a "45" on the side. Then came a special edition Inauguration hat. There were pastel-colored hats released for spring, an orange Jack-o'-lantern hat for Halloween, and a Christmas hat, with lights stitched across the front and "Merry Christmas" on the back.

Trump filed to run for reelection on Inauguration Day, much earlier than his predecessors did, and his campaign shop has kept up. Ace Specialties, the Louisiana company that makes the hats, has produced more than 750,000 of them and plans to make a special hat to commemorate the millionth sale, its president Christl Mahfouz told CNN in an email.

LeBron 15s

LeBron James debuted the latest edition of his Nike shoes in September at New York Fashion Week. They were inspired in part by terracotta warrior statues he and designer Jason Petrie saw during a visit to China. But it wasn't until the Cleveland Cavaliers' opening game the following month the shoes took on political significance. James wore a custom pair that said "EQUALITY" in gold across the back. When the Cavs came to Washington to play the Wizards, he wore another pair of "EQUALITY" LBJ15s, one black, the other white.

"Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, black or white or Hispanic," James said when he was in Washington, according to the Post. "It doesn't matter your race, whatever the case may be, this is a beautiful country, and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are."

Fred Perry polo

The Proud Boys, a far-right group whose members describe themselves as Western chauvinists, adopted the shirt as a uniform. Black with yellow stripes on the collar and sleeves and a yellow Fred Perry laurel wreath logo on the left chest, these shirts were often worn with red MAGA hats at protests and rallies the Proud Boys attended.

Fred Perry came out against the group in July after a group of Canadian members disrupted an indigenous ceremony. In a statement, chairman John Flynn told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., "We don't support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with."

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