That’s about as provocative title as I could have given this post, so let’s move along posthaste so that we can get to the bottom of it. Yesterday the image below appeared in r/pics with the title “I think this is a pretty disrespectful fashion “trend”. Found on hipster clothing site.”
I wish that was more straightforward, but this is the internet so everything is complicated. Let me explain the background of the above image and the source of the hat in question.
The site the image appeared on was Karmaloop, which Wikipedia describes as being “a multi-platform web retailer, community style and media company specializing Verge Culture and streetwear ecommerce.” The only problem that the page it was once on now leads to the following:
A redditor who visited the site prior to it being taken down informed everyone that it was being marketed as “The Rothco O.D. Vintage Veteran Hat in Green.” What many were not aware of was that Karmaloop was simply the re-seller, with Rothco, “The World’s Foremost Supplier of Military, Tactical, Outdoor Clothing and Accessories” being the original manufacturer.
To use less words what happened is this:
A company that distributes military supplies and apparel had one of its products purchased by another company, which specializes in streetwear, to sell and market it to what I’m going dub “young people.”
That being said, Rothco, who created the hat to, as far as I can tell, sell to actual Vietnam veterans, is not at fault here. Karmaloop taking this hat and selling it alongside other products like the one pictured on the right definitely is.
And this isn’t just a military trend in fashion, which is more, as this article on Elle shows, clothing that has been inspired by military garb and the like. The difference here, and what I think so many people are taking offence at, is the fact that this hat denotes its wearer as being the survivor of a war that left tens of thousands of young American men dead and five times that number wounded.
Yes, it’s disrespectful to the veterans who lived through that conflict, but it also exhibits either one of two things: 1) an ignorance of what occurred in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975, or 2) a callousness in being aware of the bloodshed and suffering that took place but using it as a fashion statement.
There is blame to be put on young people who are purchasing these hats and wearing them with no regard whatsoever to a very real event that took place within the past fifty years, but just as much, if not more, on those who are selling it to them within that context. Visiting another site, Shopstyle, shows you what the Karmaloop page might have looked like with the hat, and exhibits right below it “Similar Miss KL Hats,” most of which are extremely similar to the one I chose above.
It’s unclear to me which came first, young people wearing “military-inspired” garb or web vendors marketing “military-inspired” garb to young people, but it hardly matters. And sure, this could simply be youths wanting to remember or honour those who died in the war, but even then it communicates very poorly any understanding at all of what actually went down.
History is important, and I very strongly doubt it is being remembered with any respect given this trend, if we can even call it that. To take this all very seriously we could fall back on the words “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but I think it’s enough to lament how little thought whatsoever has gone into any of this.
To end with, it would seem that even when hats like this are being purchased for actual Vietnam veterans problems continue to arise: