Contributing Writer | Taya Coates
Black protest fashion is not just the clothing protestors choose to march in, but also the fashion choices made during everyday life that make a statement. Some recent fashion moments have redefined what protest style is. These are the greatest fashion protest moments from the latter half of 2020. In an age where BLM masks are being banned from workplaces and schools, fashion activism is more powerful than ever before.
In 2014, during Outkast’s reunion tour, the always-stylish Andre 3000 came out in a black jumpsuit at every stop. The difference between them was the simple but thought proking phrases printed across the chest. The most jarring was ‘across cultures, darker people suffer most. why?’. The jumpsuits caught the attention of many and they were presented as a collection in an exhibit at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In July, the iconic rapper revived the collection and made a line of shirts with the same phrases from the jumpsuits. 100% of the sale proceeds were donated to Black Lives Matter.
In August, 23-year-old tennis player Naomi Osaka’s wore seven different masks honoring Black victims of police brutality during the US Open. In an interview with CNN, Osaka said, “I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story. Maybe they’ll Google it…For me, just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.” She won the title for her second time while showing her support for the families of the victims. As she continued to reach her goal of making history for Black women in tennis, she was honoring those who had the opportunity to reach their goals stolen from them.
In September, Tennesse Titans player Derrick Henry stunned the internet with his custom suit. The designer is unknown but the lasting impact of the suit was clear. The black and white suit is completely covered with names of Black victims of police brutality from Tamir Rice to Emmit Till. Many on social media were moved by the suit, noting how sad it was to see that there were enough names of victims to fit on a suit designed for a 6’3 man. The images received tens and thousands of retweets and likes. The official Titans twitter posted the photos of Henry with a caption with the perfect sentiment, “It takes all of us.”
Actress Yvonne Orji, who plays ‘Molly’ on Issa’s Rae’s hit HBO show Insecure, wowed critics at the Emmy’s in late September. While she wore a stunning red thigh-high split Azzi & Osta gown, her hair was her real red-carpet moment. Stylist @mickeydabarber on Instagram was the artist behind her short fade and statement Black power fist shaved onto her left side. This whimsical approach for such a heavy topic shined much-needed light onto the Black Lives Matter movement in the Hollywood space, where it was barely discussed prior to the June protests.
At the E! People’s Choice Awards earlier this month, comedian Leslie Jones wore a custom all-black Christian Siriano Suit covered with names of Black police brutality victims. She paired the look with a matching mask decorated with ‘Black Lives Matter’ text. Breonna Taylor’s name was at the forefront, sitting on the lapel of the suit jacket. Like Orji, she brought the Black Lives Matter conversation back to the forefront. Black celebrities are truly aiding the cause by taking advantage of the media attention to their fashion choices. Every time they wear something supporting BLM, they reinforce the notion that Black voices will not be silenced this time, and the victim’s stories will not be forgotten.