Photographs by Matthew Septimus
Like everyone else in our image-obsessed era, neo-Nazis want to make a good impression. So when a coalition of white nationalist groups announced plans to convene on Charlottesville this summer, the hipper racists among them were full of helpful fashion TIPS. Baggy white sheets and ill-fitting arm bands were out; muscular arms and tight tees were in. In a post for his now-shuttered hate site Daily Stormer, editor Andrew Anglin urged his followers to look hip, sexy, and dangerous, dispensing fashion do’s and don’ts as detailed as anything we’ve seen in GQ.
“Wear fitted T-shirts, where the sleeve goes to the middle,” he wrote. “It should not hang lower than the base of your member. We need to be conscious of what we look like and how we represent ourselves. That matters more than our ideas.” Anglin finished with, “This is what will make guys want to join us. This is what will make girls want to be our groupies. That will make us look like bad boys and heroes.”
On August 11 and 12, hundreds of Daily Stormer followers heeded Anglin’s call. The quad at UVA was filled with a sea of youthful Trumpian mini-me’s in khakis and crisp, white polos—like a convention of Gap sales associates.
Their efforts did not go unnoticed. “Without the sartorial trappings of mainstream respectability,” wrote Elena Sheppard in Nylon, “their ideas would be tossed aside as the ramblings of a radical few. Dressed like everyone, their philosophy… feels more dangerous because it feels sinisterly familiar.” Robin Givhan of the Washington Post noted that American style has always been dominated by the disadvantaged—blacks, Jews, and gays—and called for the industry to resist the Alt-Right’s appropriations.
“Fashion has become a stealth weapon for white nationalists. Neo-Nazis have bought into fashion’s ability to camouflage, distract, embolden, reassure, flatter and, quite simply, lie,” she wrote. “Why wouldn’t fashion speak up?”
Why indeed? Honestly, no one we know is running around in khakis and white polos. (We gave up our Dockers in high school.) Still, we’re not ceding any ground to these guys. So after the racists decided to co-opt American prep for their rally, we decided to grab it back. And we knew exactly who to call.
Check It is a gay and transgender gang from Washington DC, recently featured in an acclaimed documentary produced by Steve Buscemi and Louis CK. Some of its members wear lipstick and stilettos, others tank tops and Nikes. They carry brass knuckles and Mace in their Louis Vuitton bags. Some are homeless, and easy targets for violence; they’ve been shot at, stabbed, strangled, and raped. So a few years ago, they started a gang to protect each other and shed any notion of victimhood.
You don’t want to fuck with them.
The well-fed, fearful, middle-class white boys who swarmed Charlottesville were full of bitter recriminations about their treatment in America. “You will not replace us,” they chanted. But the members of Check It have no time for such grievances. They’re creating their own clothing label, putting on fashion shows, and working stints as runway models. When we approached them a week after Charlottesville with our idea, they were, as always, game. And when we showed up with a pile of white shirts and khakis, they knew exactly what to do.
Khaki: it’s the new black.
Matthew Septimus is an award-winning, New York City-based photographer whose work has appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Clients include The New York Jets, Columbia University, Pentagram Design, MoMA PS1, and New York Public Radio.
Thanks to Wren Arthur, Olive Productions, Eden Campbell, and Ron Moten. More info on Check It at Checkitenterprises.com