What should I wear to a protest march?
The art of looking chic while taking to the streets has long been neglected
There's a need for someone to discuss the correct way to dress for a protest: how to appear serious while avoiding looking slightly deranged? And then, of course, there's the standard-issue sign versus hand-crafted, and does it convey the wrong priorities if it's colour-co-ordinated with one's outfit?
Annabelle, by email
This letter is, yes, longer than usual but it is so particularly awesome that to cut it felt like taking a pair of shears to the Turin shroud. For, truly, there has never been a clearer indication of the existence of a divine Almighty than someone considering whether they should co-ordinate their protest sign with their protest outfit. Annabelle, as my personal guru Stephen Colbert would say, a tip o'my hat to you.
You are quite right: the subject of protest chic is one that has been long neglected and, really, I hang my head in shame. All those anti-war protests that had so little effect on government policy? I blame myself. The people were just not properly attired. But let us take a tip from Tony Blair and not waste time on regrets but rather focus on the future. A future in which neither of us will be president of the EU.
First: How Not To Look Slightly Deranged. There are obvious points here, and ones that should apply to all areas of life, not just protests, so no facial jewellery, no dreadlocks, no glow in the eye of self-righteous indignation fed with the oxygen of half-formed arguments, which is only just about acceptable in stoned undergraduates and is certainly not in anyone over the age of 21.
Clothes that look as if they were bought in Camden market (wacky-wacky, thumbs-aloft, baggy striped trousers; anything with a pompom) are obviously verboten. Unless you are Elizabeth Hurley, you probably will not be tempted to wear heels to a protest (and what would Liz be protesting about, do we think, people? Perhaps a criminal nationwide shortage of white denim?). Plain and practical are the obvious styles to aim for, but nothing in army green because that risks you being mistaken for a rent- a-protester, army green generally being their chosen colour. Similarly, no T-shirts or other paraphernalia that indicate you have frequented other protests: you think it proves your passion, others think you're just a protest slut in it for the exercise and the day off work.
As for signs, I am a great fan of homemade ones, simply for the show of creativity, and if anyone in the protest notices you have co-ordinated yourself with your sign, you are not in a protest, you are in Selfridges.
One wardrobe factor to consider most carefully is how it will help Fox News? Last week Jon Stewart revealed that, in order to make an anti-healthcare protest look more popular than the sparsely attended event actually was, Fox News simply used footage from a more popular rally from two months back. Clever, no? So think of this, people. Next time your boss demands the work he asked for yesterday, but which you haven't finished because you've been too busy playing on Facebook/ Grindr/Netaporter (delete as demographically relevant), just show him some work you did two months ago because, like, it's basically the same thing, innit?
So, with the needs of Fox News always at the forefront of one's mind, the obvious thing to do here is to wear the same outfit to every protest, thereby making Fox presenter Sean Hannity's job just that little bit easier. Of course, the power of fashion can only go so far and one thing it cannot do is control the seasons and the sad end to this story is that Fox was caught out in its small manipulation of the truth because the trees in Washington DC in November should be autumnal in colour and yet in Fox's footage they were a suspicious shade of green. But as Hannity no doubt said when his little mistake was exposed, one can only work with the tools one has. And then lie.