Christopher Wylie had an outfit. His whistle was directed not at a government, but its nebulous digital equivalent; perhaps it took someone steeped in the intricacies of personal branding to jam up the algorithms that governed it. Or was this persona too crisp, a meme more than a movement’s spark? Most whistleblowers dress to deflect attention. Daniel Ellsberg, the military intelligence contractor whose leak of the Pentagon Papers helped end the Vietnam War, rubbed elbows with flower children in a suit and tie.
Like a suit, a uniform of jeans, T-shirt, New Balance trainers and sporty jacket relies on invisibility. The person (usually a white man) who wears it is virtually indistinguishable from a non-far-right guy in a casual everyday garb. Style is then either thought of exclusively as a tool to assimilate or paradoxically discounted altogether as irrelevant to one’s political beliefs. For white supremacists ditching the skinhead image means leaving behind their status as subculture, which defines itself in opposition to the mainstream, to reaffirm whiteness as the mainstream.
In 2017, the collaboration has become as common as the collection. It generates unfailing press, both critical and laudatory. In both scenarios, interest tends to hinge on the brands’ differences, on the inherent edginess of uniting them. In the case of Louis Vuitton and Supreme, the story is that the former brings to the table old-world prestige (and high prices), the latter irreverent youthfulness (and fans rabid enough to pay them). Yet it’s worth asking: how different are Supreme and Louis Vuitton, actually?