Fashion and self-fashioning have remained important and highly visible aspects of organizing and movements of resistance. The power of dress to both reflect and foster a sense of empowerment can be observed throughout various moments within the history of fashion and activism. Whether it is the political use of the color black, strategically employed by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and ‘70s, or the use of the Keffiyeh to symbolize rebellion against the imposition of Zionism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, fashion can be used to harness, strengthen, and even organize the power of resistance. Uniforms and collective dressing, such as in the case of The Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa, who wear head-to-toe red, can project and create solidarity amongst collectives, placing emphasis on a unified cause or a greater whole rather than any one individual. And conversely, individuals can use the power of radical or subversive personal style to resist against both interpersonal and systemic oppressions and restrictions that they may face. This week’s reading list explores five sources that discuss and showcase the influence of dress and fashion within discourses of Black resistance and activism throughout history.
About The Author
Kai (they/them) is an aspiring cultural and fashion historian. Their work centers the body politics of beauty, clothing, identity, glamour and style and their interactions with the meaning-making functions of the fashion system. Their work also attempts to decolonize exclusionary historical discourses by centering the histories of queer and Black peoples who have been systematically obscured from collective memory. Kai is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where they received a BA in Art History and the Cultural History of Dress and Fashion.