The other day I was at the gym when I spotted a dude wearing this T-Shirt from American Apparel.
It’s a pretty rad shirt. I love pink. I love triangles. And I love graphic tees. But the shirt is also a political statement. Now, not only can you buy ugly/ironic non-functioning spectacles and short shorts at American Apparel (thank god), you can also buy fashionably political t-shirts. Is this cool? Or perplexing? Or both? Also, I want one. Is that okay?
And now for a mini Gay history lesson, as told by someone whose knowledge of Gay history is almost as thin as Nicole Ritchie in that famous running-on-the-beach-in-a-diaper photograph.
The pink triangle was originally used by Nazis to label the Gays in concentration camps. It was appropriated by Gays in the 1970s and made popular by the Act Up movement. For those of you who don’t know Act Up, it was started by Homo Activist Larry Kramer in the 80s in response to the fact that Ronald Reagan was doing nothing about a health crisis that was killing the entire Gay community. In short, Act Up was an advocacy group that protested the government’s lack of action in AIDS research and the provision of experimental AIDS treatments for people with AIDS. They were fighting to save lives, and were thus awesome. They protested and protested. The protests looked like this:
The Act Up protests often attracted counter protesters like these:
…Um, yes I do. Have you seen me?
The signature of Act Up is the triangle. Which is right side up, unlike the upside down triangle used to label the Gays in Nazi concentration camps. Inverting the Nazi triangle was a way of negating it, flipping it on its head to use it as a symbol of Gay empowerment. A lot of interesting art was made utilizing that pink triangle:
Which brings me back to this American Apparel t-shirt:
Why is the triangle upside down, Nazi-style? Obviously there is some sort of appropriation/subversion thing going on considering American Apparel owner Dov Charney is Jewish, as is this model (who I know in real life because all Gay people living in Los Angeles know each other. It’s true). But I’m still a little confused…
I don’t disapprove of this shirt because American Apparel has made it clear that they are pro-Gay and pro-Jew. But it does seem kind of crazy to sell a shirt with a Nazi symbol on it without explanation. In all honesty, they probably put the triangle upside down because it’s more flattering than a regular triangle, accentuating your broad shoulders and that tiny little waist! And wouldn’t you prefer the Nazi triangle to the Act Up triangle if the Nazi one makes you look better? Don’t answer that.