Unbuttoned: Fake News Jeans: Travesty or Sign of the Times?

Unbuttoned: Fake News Jeans: Travesty or Sign of the Times?

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(“Fake News” was chosen as the word of the year for 2017 by both the Collins English Dictionary and the American Dialect Society, in case you were wondering.)

The jeans, which cost $90 and come in gently faded denim with a mid-rise and straight legs, were a trending product on the brand’s website by Tuesday, with 30 percent of the sales originating in the United States. By Wednesday, they were sold out.

Still, not everyone was so thrilled with the idea.

Then some commentators got a little snarky about upset liberals.

Presumably part of the issue is that Topshop, while known for its slogan items (it has sold an average of one slogan T-shirt a minute since September, according to a spokeswoman), is not really known for its political positions, so the jeans smack of bandwagoning as opposed to a call to arms during a sensitive cultural moment.

Whether you think the jeans are a travesty or a triumph, however, the truth is that clothes have always been a popular outlet for political positioning, and this is increasingly true in the Trump administration. Mr. Trump is, after all, a president who loves branding of all kinds, is obsessed with image and visual messaging, has an alliterative way with a nickname and whose occasionally garbled use of language (remember covfefe?) has become part of the national lexicon in a way that practically begs a coffee cup.

A vendor selling $20 hats at a rally in South Carolina in 2016.

Credit
Stephen B. Morton for The New York Times

The flurry has all picked up steam since the presidential campaign, which included fashion statement making and symbolism on both sides: women who dressed up in pantsuits or suffragist white to support Hillary Clinton, and Mr. Trump and his “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap. That particular accessory was adapted late last year by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, who created “Boring Company” black baseball caps to promote his Los Angeles tunnel-drilling initiative.

The fashion runways, too, have been full of messaging. There was Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” T-shirt version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk and Prabal Gurung’s all-slogan show finale, with models wearing multiple phrases on their shirts, including “I am an immigrant” and “We will not be silenced.” During the Globes, Connie Britton wore a shirt with the message “Poverty is Sexist” embroidered across the torso. Last summer, Mrs. Clinton modeled a special T-shirt made to raise money for Planned Parenthood bearing a pointed quote from Mr. Trump that became a cause unto itself: “Nasty Woman.”

Dior’s message T-shirt from the spring 2017 collection.

Credit
Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

All of which suggests that while we can whine all we want about the superficiality of addressing these issues via style, none of this is going away any time soon, and it will probably get more … well, trendy. We’ve just moved on from tees and hats to pants. The whole wide wardrobe world is now up for word grabs! (How’s that for a tongue twister?)

It’s only a matter of time before some other clever denim company takes a page from Topshop’s book and realizes that Mr. Trump has recently provided us with yet another gem of a phrase, a version of which is just bound for clothing: Very Stable Jeanius.

Can’t you just see it?

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