What to Wear to a Protest

20 Oct, 2015 | By Varsity Breakout | 2 mins read

South Africa has witnessed the most unified protests in the past few weeks as the issues of university fees have caused a nationwide sweep of rightful rage. These varsity protests are the first that have spoken to every single individual concerned with the value of education and more importantly the inherent claim each citizen has to it, purely based on the fact that society insists on basing our personal and professional worth on a certificate that says we have excelled in being systematic puppets.

The calibre of protesters, ranges from students paying for their own fees, parents on the brink of poverty trying to include themselves in society’s tunnel vision to middle class families struggling to get their 6 year undergraduate kids off their couch and into the real world and of course the existentially-affected rich. This admittedly stereotypical grouping process is merely an effort to try and distinguish what might be the appropriate attire in where money and class is a shared issue, but different concern.

Historically, those more familiar with protest in this country (black people) have looked to this form of resistance as a way of combining the fight for justice as well as dignity, clad in what is known as ‘Sunday’s Best’ in attempt to “look like the people [they’re] trying to influence.”: due to the censorship enforced on South African media during the Apartheid regime, with regards to fashion-based impact, it would be most appropriate to refer to the Civil Rights Movement, where “…when millions of Americans watched well-dressed, well-mannered, black people get beaten by white southerners on their television sets, it no doubt inspired a strong sense of empathy”. However, in this era, slacks have been replaced by leggings, leather and skinny jeans which would appeal to the sense of dignity protesters genuinely are trying to appeal to, setting a similar “defining image and tone” where even our more conservative, refined, rural comrades have left the country common for city anarchy and freedom. Somewhere in the crowd of wrath you will find ideally well-dressed privilege in J-crew and attempted broke ‘vintage’ Zara, who may be able to afford the spiked varsity charges but in all fairness had no say in their upbringing despite attendant rage. Last but not least you can always rely on the committed hippie generation for every struggle face, be it for race, animals, or our precious environment and it’s melting glaciers. You have seen them walk barefoot on campus almost willing the world for a revolution, whose attire upon research is a protest ‘no go’, it’s fashion “no’s” beingĀ “…no facial jewelry, 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…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”.

To conclude on a note of practicality, another useful historical reference may be the good old durability of overalls: useful and politically correct for the aggrieved everyday man- however, in addition. nothing says more prepared than sunglasses, tear-gas ready scarf (balaclava for riot swag), ready running trainers and a placard.