I know as well as any other fashion-forward person that it’s tempting to make a serious statement with your clothes. One seems oh-so-much more worldly and mysterious when wearing an outfit that promotes human rights and global change instead of just, you know, one’s love for pink sundresses. However, the goal of outfits like that should be to say something important about an issue without it just being printed in bold face across your chest.
I have absolutely no issue with T-shirts that raise money and awareness for important causes (the Gap’s RED campaign comes to mind). It’s the clothing companies (and the customers who buy said clothing) that perplex me the most on this issue. The most obvious abuse of the statement outfit is the ubiquitous peace sign. I am confident that most of the general population and an even higher percentage of college students would like to promote peace. But do all the girls who flounce around in their peace-sign festooned velour tracksuits really think about what peace means? Do they consider how peace is attained as much as they consider their outfit? Do they think that by buying a bikini printed with the symbol, it is bringing the world any closer to peace than by buying one with, say, skulls? Or do they stop to consider that many pieces with peace signs on then are made in sweatshops, in countries plagued by civil unrest? I like an ironic outfit as much as anyone, but for all parties involved, it’s better when the irony is intentional.
I’m not condemning all the women who identify with or wear the symbol of the Hippie generation. It is a perfectly admirable thing to want others to know that you support peace. I just hope that consumers are not lulled into a sense of false purpose, that girls don’t think that by wearing a peace sign, peace is any closer. It is one thing to advertise to your fellow Pink-bedazzled peers that you want to reduce conflict in the world, it is entirely another to think about and decide what peace is, or how to attain it. And I wonder how much closer peace would be if we spent as much money on aid for the agencies that fight for mutual harmony among people as we do on merchandise that is printed with the symbol for pacifism without saying much at all.