I’d like to take a break from my usual array of bears, trees and rainbows to talk about something which is making me really uncomfortable.
I can’t walk down the high street without seeing a handful of these shirts and hoodies sported by sulky teenagers fresh out of Urban Outfitters. There’s always at least one positioned outside mcdonalds failing to inhale a cigarette.
Now i know i sound super old and bitter and should be croaking this rant from my porch, but i live in England and as such don’t have a porch.
I also know that fashion loves to be edgy and we’re sort of running out of ways to do that. Pretty soon people are going to be so desensitised that anything will be ok. And frankly, if these guys are after shock value, they’re just being lazy. Quick, what’s the worst thing you can think of?
How about the Nazi military insignia? It might have lost the swastika in its new incarnation (although Boy used the entire image on its clothing during the 80s, as well as screen-printed t-shirts bearing Hitler’s portrait), but anyone at all familiar with historical iconography will recognise it as the Iron Eagle.
“The Nazi party used the traditional German eagle, standing atop of a swastika inside a wreath of oak leaves. It is also known as the Iron Eagle. When the eagle is looking to its left shoulder, it symbolises the Nazi party, and was called the Parteiadler. In contrast, when the eagle is looking to its right shoulder, it symbolises the country (Reich), and was therefore called the Reichsadler.”
So it could be worse. Rather than the Reich symbol, Boy are using the ‘parteiadler’ incarnation, designed by Hitler himself.
The swastika’s position in the image is now occupied by the O in Boy.
And everyone is sitting on the fence about it. There are a few of the above comparison images floating about various social networking communities, a couple of news articles that basically just say ‘ooh, racey! fashion u so crazy’ but no conclusive decisions, no disgust, and absolutely no discussion on Tumblr.
We’re all pretty aware of the moral issues surrounding Urban Outfitters, who stock Boy (see founder and CEO Richard Hayne’s support of Rick Santorum, implications of homophobia and transphobia and, unforgettably, the ‘eat less’ shirt), but i’ve been through the Boy London tag and can’t find anything aside from people pouting in propaganda.
It’s tricky. Because without the swastika the eagle is a broader symbol for 20th century Germany. But it’s an unmistakable allusion to the most widely recognised symbol of genocide, hatred and racism. It is outlawed in many countries if used as a symbol of Nazism, but apparently fashion is fine.
I don’t know what to do. I want to ask the kiddies outside mcdonalds if they know where the symbol they’re wearing comes from, but I can’t imply that its as horrific as I think it is because that’s not far from policing their choice of clothes, which would be fascist.
It’s also problematic because being this upset by an allusion to the symbol is continuing to give it power. But of all the symbols in history, especially in living memory, this is the one not to be taken lightly. Nazis will always be evil. The Holocaust will always be a painful reminder of the atrocities that humans are potentially capable of. Symbols can change meaning over time (the German eagle is borrowed from the Roman Legion and, as is widely known, the Nazi swastika is a tilted version of the Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist symbol 卐), but these will be forever linked with Nazism.
Which is why my heart goes out to the holocaust survivors and friends and relatives of those who didn’t survive, who might see these ridiculous clothes paraded around and be forced to remember the darkest era of human history. That’s one hell of a PTSD trigger.
All in the name of fashion?
When old essays get a second wind it makes you think there might actually be some good in writing measured discussions and spending time doing research so others don’t have to.
I’m glad at least some people find them useful, but is there really any point putting this many words on a micro-blogging platform?
When people see that much text on their dashboard is it ever worth the patience it takes to stop scrolling?
I hope i’m not the only person on tumblr that can only get to a decent conclusion by investing more than a couple hundred words.
Maybe there’s just no audience for essays in a world of hashtags.