Monday, September 28, 2009

Political Identity as Fashion

On the Metro recently I got to thinking about flags as fashion statements. One thing particularly endemic to the U.S. is the American flag on everything. In my case, I found myself on a crowded Metro train full of tourists, all of them covered with tacky “I Love DC” shirts or, of course, U.S. flags.

I tried to think of any other country where one would see something like that. Canadians I’ve come across in traveling love to put the maple leaf on their backpacks and suitcases, (it’s as if they are trying desperately to say “I am NOT an American!”… and I can’t blame them) but somehow it doesn’t come across in quite the worshipful way it does when Americans do it. I think there’s also a parallel with Europeans and their national football/soccer shirts. But with us, I feel, it reaches patriotic overkill.

On the crowded metro train I found myself rolling my eyes at the tackiness. But then I realized I’m guilty of flags-as-fashion to a degree myself. It’s no secret I have a thing for Union Jacks. I think for a lot of non-British people it’s a fashion icon that transcends its literal symbolism… maybe our love of British icons has its roots in idolizing the “Swingin’ London” of years past? I have Union Jacks on rugs, belt buckles, shoes (thanks to Ben Sherman), shirts, mugs, etc. Thought I doubt it would be as fun or fashionable where I actually in the U.K.

What passes for an ironic fashion statement in one place has an entirely different meaning somewhere else. Just a musing…

"Adam, are you sure it's not a bit much? I mean, you're bathroom's lovely, but really..."

1 comment:

blue dog said...

It's actually considered cool in England too... It's rooted in the punk movement (Vivenne Westwood who created the punk by dressing the Sex Pistols still uses it extensively) and 60s. It resurfaced again in the 90s wih Geri Halliwell's infamous Union Jack dress and Oasis and Blur making it "Cool Britannia". It's used in a more rebellious anti-establishment theme instead of "we are one and you are not". The 60s and punk movement especially personified that. I think it's very inclusive.

We wouldn't actually fly a flag though... people would assume you're a member of the BNP! Every one is aware of where they live, why is it necessary to claim it as sovereign territory? We also NEVER swear allegiance to the flags in school and don't display it as a form of a way of discrimination against others... unless you're in the BNP.