What does it take to be an activist? Throughout history, organisers and protest groups have used fashion to give various socio-political movements all around the globe visual momentum. The practice of using fashion as a medium for social, political, and environmental change is known as fashion activism. Activist fashion has evolved over time, but the messaging has always been clear about who you stand with and what you stand for.
"To conform is to give in," but we are a generation of fighters, activists, and one-of-a-kind beings. We strive to make the world a better place, one that is more accepting and open. At Kontroversial, we will fight for everyone's right to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Be yourself, not the person they want you to be. This is why we believe that activist fashion is important and in this article, we will discuss all the powerful moments in fashion and how you can use fashion to express yourself and what you stand for.
Activist Fashion in History
Although there is no set of rules on what to wear for a protest, fashion as sending messages has been an important element from the early days of the civil rights movement's "dressed to the nines" activists to the more current slogan-clad T-shirt-wearers of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
To begin, consider the civil rights movement. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Black Americans fought against social injustice and inequality, including segregation and disempowerment. To fight racial stereotypes, negative ideas that black people were unmotivated, inept, poor, and primitive, made a significant contribution to discrimination. Some civil rights groups advocated for nonviolent resistance methods such as sit-ins, freedom rides, bus boycotts, and street protests. These practices were aimed to elevate the movement and humanise the thousands of participants across America who were trying to fight for full integration into a system that was being denied to them.
During these times, fashion had to play a significant role in communicating this. A well-dressed, humble Black body served as a tool in tandem with peaceful protest's passive efforts. Women in the movement decided to wear tidily pressed hair, cardigans, button-ups, and stockings under skirts with modest hemlines. Basically, the image that comes to mind when you think "Sunday best."
Activist Fashion Now
When the Black Lives Matter movement got momentum following the deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Mike Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, society's hardship did not deter demonstrators from protesting in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Activists have opted for practicality and safety since the movement's inception, as Black organising has previously been encountered with violent and deadly blowback from the authorities. Protesters during this time had to wear face masks (or other items such as t-shirts and scarves to hide their faces) to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as protective glasses and other safety clothing to reduce the danger from weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets.
T-shirts with political messages have also become commonplace in protest movements. The tees typically bear slogans such as "We Can't Breathe," as well as the names and photos of people that have died as a result of the state-sanctioned conflict. T-shirts, which can be mass-produced and distributed quickly, have been a popular, fairly affordable medium for a statement since the 1960s and well into the 1970s.
These are just a few historical examples of how fashion has been used as an influential form of communication. Whether the communication is evident or subtle, it allows individuals to express the problems that are most important to them in the forms that they see best suited.
Why is Fashion Activism Important?
Why follow rules that prevent you from being who you truly are? Everyone sees the world differently, and you have the power and right to break the mould, live your life your way, and be who you want to be. An activist is a positive agent of change, somebody who asks for better and brings into question the systems that cause so much unfairness and human, animal, and planetary suffering. So, in some ways, we're all activists for something. Fashion is just an element of activism that anyone can connect to since everyone needs clothes. However, it also serves to unite the movement and send a visual message expressing what the protest group stands for.
Because fashion is such an important part of our daily lives, we can be the change we want to see in the world. We can't change the way the system works by ourselves, but we can educate ourselves and raise awareness about the importance of activism and activist fashion in hopes of a better future. Take control of your style today and raise awareness in your daily life by selecting brands that share your values. For inspiration, F≠ck the rules and follow us on Instagram.