How the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat became the protest accessory of the decade
By Taya Coates
Donald Trump’s merchandise team could have never imagined the impact the MAGA hat would have when it was released in 2015. The problematic ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan stuck with the public, becoming a trending hashtag and headline. A simple baseball cap embroidered with the slogan became the most notable symbol of Trump’s platform. In 2015, any red brim began to command crowds like a blaring siren does as it approaches from the distance. Stars like Kanye West brought even more attention to the hat, further expanding the media discussion on what wearing the hat meant about a person.
To rebel against the notoriety that the hat had accumulated, many decided to make their own versions. According to Teen Vogue, Emma Tolkin created the original parody hat, a good friend of journalist Bridget Todd. Todd posted a photo of her in the cap right after Trump’s 2017 inauguration and received mixed reviews on social media. Some viewed it as modern satire, while others found the imitation offensive. Despite the debate, her hat inspired many other creatives to make their own versions. The trend has continued to thrive through the four years of Trump’s term, with thousands of different slogans available to purchase online. Right now, one can buy red baseball hats with text that says things like ‘Make America Native Again,’ drawing attention to the hypocrisy of Trump’s immigration policies, and even ‘Make Our President Black Again.’
This week NY mag captured the pictured photo of sculpture artist Connor Czora’s piece on the Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House. The hat’s shattered state echoes other artists’ initiatives, expressing disdain for everything that the slogan ‘Make American Great Again’ implies. The consequences of Donald Trump’s actions have created an outpour of emotions within the nation, which led to a simple cap serving as an extension of a whole political era.
The sensationalism of the red hats spread like wildfire because of the form of the protest – fashion. Baseball caps are relatable to everyone despite one’s position on the political spectrum or socio-economic spectrum. It is also notable that the chosen canvas for this movement wasn’t T-shirts, a more popular choice for company merchandise with slogans than baseball caps. In this case, the sporty baseball cap served as a perfect vehicle for “repping your team” in today’s political climate.
The imitation hats provide a fashion scenario that has never existed before. Clothing has always had the power to cause an instant flood of strong assumptions. But in this unique situation, the parody hats and the originals look the same from a distance. The cap’s ambiguity only ceases when the individual is close enough to laugh with or scowl at. The mysterious red hats have the power to start a war within any room, something that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. The caps’ whole duality is a perfect representation of the ever-growing divide within the country. They are an exterior manifestation of the large “us versus them” mentality that has prevailed since around the century’s turn.