A look at why protest fashion isn't trivial.

Fashion

1.10.2017

4 Colors That Have Played Major Roles in Protesting

The idea of protesting systems and entities larger than ourselves is as old as David and Goliath. People demanding their voices be heard and their liberties restored often coincides directly with unified visuals of solidarity. Last weekend’s Women’s March employed Pink Pussy Hats, for example, flooding newsfeeds with a sea of pink. Color holds a ton of psychological triggers, and protestors use their bodies as billboards to communicate a united message of defiance. While it may seem trivial, fashions worn during protests are actually quite powerful. 

Below, we recap how specific colors have been used historically to make a difference.

Black
mexico_cityprotestBlack is often seen as ominous or heavy. Many times, it’s both. Black Bloc for example, rides both sides. It’s is an anarchistic tactic of protesters who clad themselves in head-to-toe black and appear around the world at marches and rallies. Recently, the tactic was employed on the day of Trump’s inauguration, but it’s been in use since 1980’s Germany.

Another incident took place in April of 2016, when women in Mexico City took to the public transportation system clad in black veils to protest sexual harassment with signs crying, “El Metro es publicio, mi cuerpo no” (The metro is public, my body is not).

Redbringbackourgirls_redNaturally intense, extreme and emotional, red has long been used as a weapon of dissension.

Red has been used recently by teachers across the country to protest the admittance of Betsey DeVos, President Trump’s nominee as Education Secretary. They’re upset because she has very little background in public education and might have access to a shit ton of money in public funds.

In late August 2015, “Bring Back Our Girls” campaigners in Nigeria took to the streets also clad in red 500 days after the extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped 270 girls in the Chibok region.

GreenThousands of farmer wearing green knit hats protest on November 5, 2014 in Chalon-en-Champagne. France is facing widespread farmer strikes across the country today protesting their increasing constraints and charges, the collapsing prices of cereals, milk and vegetables, caused in part by the sanctions on Russia, as well as rising fertiliser prices. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP/Getty Images)Green is a color of stimulation, well being, and renewal.

It’s no wonder that French farmers in November 2014 gathered to strike against increasing charges (as well as rising fertilizer prices) due to falling prices of milk, vegetables and produce. A green hat was the obvious choice to visually represent their unity and frustration.

In a unified protest last Sunday, thousands assembled in the Dominican Republic’s capital of Santo Domingo, NYC and Boston to “end impunity” and protest corruption and bribery by the company Odebrecht. Across the three cities, protesters wore green in solidarity.

Yellowmalaysia_yellowYellow often represents brightness, light and warmth. In Malaysia, thousands took to the streets wearing yellow and demanding answers when an investigation into the Prime Minister was deferred. Millions of dollars magically found its way into the PM’s personal account while the rest of the country was struggling through a financial crisis. In response, the government has banned people from wearing yellow. Because, of course.

A professor at the University of San Diego and her students recently wore yellow stars as a nod to the ones worn by Jews during WWII. This time, the stars bore the word “Muslim” to draw parallels of fascism, touching on Islamophobia and opposition of a Muslim registry.

They say you can’t let the clothes wear you, but rather you must wear the clothes. Same goes for messages of protest. Without the heart and passion behind these symbols, they’re just another accessory to fill a closet. However, when used correctly, the impact can be quite substantial. 

Images courtesy of Gire and FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP/Getty Images.

Stay tuned to Milk to learn more about fashion and how it plays into a bigger cultural picture. 

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