In the words of fashion designer Rachel Zoe, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Some people want to show that they are wealthy, so they wear expensive brand names. Others are sports fans who have extensive jersey collections. Most people simply buy and wear clothing that speaks to them, whether it be dark, light, colourful, plain, formal, casual, loose, tight etc. Often, the pieces of clothing an individual buys speaks to some aspect of their personality and character. This is not always the case, but the reality of the situation is that everyone we come across quickly creates an impression of us, and our clothing plays a large role in that impression. As such, we should consider how we want to present ourselves. Does your clothing really represent you?
Many people are socially and environmentally conscious, valuing things like equality, freedom, and justice, but are unable to express these qualities non-verbally. This is where fashion can become a useful tool.
Instead of being a walking billboard for multi-million dollar companies, why not use your clothing to provoke thought and inspire positive change?
Many athletes have recognized this opportunity, and taken advantage of their platforms and tremendous followings by using their clothing to make social statements. In the NFL, players have been customizing their cleats to feature art and text that acknowledge and recognize social injustices going on in the community. For instance, DeSean Jackson has used his cleats to send a message by paying tribute to Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Other NFL Players have done the same, and shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement, among other causes.
Similarly, NBA players have been customizing their shoes to display social messages, by writing statements and having artists paint powerful images. For example, Kitchener-born Jamal Murray wore basketball shoes with a portrait of Breonna Taylor on the left shoe, and a portrait of George Floyd on the right shoe. Drawing inspiration from the fallen figures, Murray said “These shoes give me life. Even though these people are gone, they give me life.” He went on to say “I use these shoes as a symbol to keep fighting all around the world.”
Also, within the NBA community in recent years arena entrances have become somewhat of a fashion show, as players arrive in style and show off their meticulously crafted outfits. Players have been moved by recent tragedies and injustices, and many players have been expressing their feelings and views through their clothing choices, which are highlighted in the NBA “tunnels”. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, and Montrezl Harrell are some of the many NBA players who have made statements with their clothing, ranging in topics from police brutality to voting to racism, and so on. NBA star, and National Basketball Players Association President, Chris Paul is someone in particular who has made it his mission to be socially conscious through his outfit choices, as he largely wears clothing made by African American designers, and wears apparel that brings recognition to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in addition to writing messages on his sneakers. In regard to clothing as a means of conveying socially conscious statements, he said “ It’s a way to express yourself. It’s a way for you to say something that’s on your mind. And you may not want to say it physically, but you may want to show support to somebody or something like that. It gives you that opportunity.”
You may not be a millionaire athlete with fans around the world, but you can do the same. On any given day you can express yourself and speak your mind without actually saying a word. Clothing gives you that opportunity. At unlearn, we recognized that this opportunity exists, and that clothing can be powerful. Our products do not only enable people to show their support and views towards various causes and issues, but the ambiguous nature of many of our designs take things one step further and create room for potential conversations. As a result, by simply wearing a t-shirt, you have the power to make a small but significant difference in the world, one conversation at a time.