What’s Bothering Brandon?: Historically Hateful Headwear

By Brandon W. Brooks

I must say, this year has flown by quickly. Maybe it’s the weather being so warm this year, or the countless inane tweets, but 2017 seems to have slipped right between our fingers.

As winter approaches and I’m forced to spend nearly a grand on damned snow tires, I am planning how to spend my winter in a way that precludes boredom, weight gain, and over all the development of winter doldrums. Looking out into the grey skies of Rochester in the winter – I have my work cut out for me.

A little over a year ago I began volunteering in a historical clothing collection of a local museum. I had a passive interest in old clothing, and decided that volunteering in this field might give me some fun experiences. Fast-forward to the present day, I am the curator’s lead intern. I am recreating historical clothing items to be used with the presentation of actual garments from the 19th century, creating interactive clothing experiences for visitors, designing my own historical underwear displays in the galleries, and have access to thousands of extant garments. I surprised myself with what exactly could be accomplished in little over a year’s time, some effort, and gas money.

Creating something seems to subdue my anxieties. Working with historical clothing has connected me with (obviously) the past, but also has induced me to wonder what the future holds. How will our current political atmosphere shape the way we fit into and “wear” the world around us? Certain periods in the past seem to dramatically highlight or sometimes deny differences between the sexes. Certain types of fabric were outlawed in the past – sumptuary laws required us all to dress “according to our station” or class within society. With clothing and what we wear being one of the first things we notice about people (and therefore influences our judgments about those around us), I wonder – how will clothing be utilized politically in the future?

Revolutionaries in late 18th century Paris wore Phrygian-style caps adorned with red, white, and blue cockades to denote their allegiance with the new regime. What about today – is there not something that can worn to illustrate one’s refusal to submit to political, religious, moral and sexual tyranny? The only thing I have seen so far is the exact opposite – a loud red baseball hat that indirectly asserts a “return” to a white, straight, Christian, male America. The “great” America, supposedly, of the past. This hat is a gaslight – it denies the history of racial, gender, religious and sexual oppression that has taken place (and currently still takes place) in this country, and promotes that America is at its best when these systems of oppression are in place. Some individuals and organization have attempted to appropriate this message of ignorance and fear by changing the message with humor – but the hat still reigns supreme as a symbol of hatred, at least in my eyes.

It would be refreshing to see people uniting across religions, genders, sexes and personal beliefs – all working together for the sake of mutual respect, mutual safety, representation and awareness – instead of splintering off into subgroups and factions that fortify only the identities of victims and oppressors. This merely strengthens those that would see us destroyed, and weakens our resolve against them.

Let the first thing you put on each morning be not what makes you different, but what we all have in common – Love.

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1 Response

  1. Brandon W. Brooks - the author says:

    Author’s post edit.

    Paragraph five, sentence five should read:

    “…and promotes that America is at its best when these systems of OPPRESSION are in place.”