Stand Collectively, Dress Respectively!

In an American political climate that feels chaotic, fashion statements are a potent way to voice your beliefs and desires to create tangible social change.

Story by Lydia Wagner / @wydialagner

Over centuries of protest and calls for human rights, the clothes activists wear have been integral to defining the mark they will make on history. Through both uniformity and individuality of clothing, protesters have formed united fronts for their beliefs. Protests from decades ago still provide a good example of how to form a strong voice; however, in this piece, ORANGE takes a look at recent social movements that were emboldened by uniform or individual style choices.

  Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Uniformity could mean a group wearing one color symbolically, making matching t-shirts or hoodies that call for change, or choosing a symbol to wear in solidarity. The power of fashion uniformity for social change has been used at the University of Texas specifically. When Senate Bill 11 passed in 2015 and made campus carry legal at all public Texas universities, students and administrators alike gathered in bright orange t-shirts emblazoned with the homemade motto, “Gun Free UT” to protest weapons on campus.

  Photo courtesy of San Antonio Express News

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Express News

All across the nation, Black Lives Matter marchers wore black in solidarity for the senseless and continual murders of unarmed black people. Others made shirts that read “Am I Next?” and “Hands Up” as a symbol of the fear black people feel at the hands of America’s police institution.

Another all-black attire protest took place at the 2018 Golden Globes when prominent celebrities came together in solidarity for sexual assault survivors of the #MeToo movement; their mantra - #TimesUp.

  Photo courtesy of Times Now

Photo courtesy of Times Now

Individuality of clothing in protest can also create a united front by encouraging self-expression and presenting unique sides of an argument while a group boldly fights for one cause.

A perfect example of celebrating individuality and self-expression while presenting a united front is pride marches and parades. Much like the people behind the spectrum of the LGBTQ crowd, each individual has different experiences that come through in their personal style choices.

  Photo courtesy of Wall Street Journal

Photo courtesy of Wall Street Journal

This colorful photo shows Turkish men wearing skirts to protest the rape and assault of women and femmes, who are often targeted and blamed for their traumas because of something as small as their clothing choices. One piece of clothing in a variety of different shapes and patterns can represent a moral ideal when the masses come together.

  Photo courtesy of News Nation

Photo courtesy of News Nation

One safe space for individuality - of clothing, skin tone, and ethnic background, is a protest against the newfound and hypocritical hatred towards immigrants in America. Crowds that are actually representative of the American population are gathering everywhere in increasing numbers to fight for the rights of a long-established American legacy of immigration.

  Photo courtesy of The New York Times

Photo courtesy of The New York Times