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Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman.

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did.

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny.

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid.

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper.

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.


That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.


So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

After a year of battling for the right to continue to appropriate the stories and identities of people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals, Scarlett Johansson has once again made headlines for a controversial opinion.

This time, the Avengers actress is facing backlash for saying that she continues to "love" and "believe" Woody Allen, despite accusations of sexual abuse made against him by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. "I love Woody," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I believe him, and I would work with him anytime. I see Woody whenever I can, and I have had a lot of conversations with him about it. I have been very direct with him, and he's very direct with me. He maintains his innocence, and I believe him."

So, in the spirit of this radical acceptance, we've compiled a list of some dream collaborators for the Ghost in The Shell actress!

1. Harvey Weinstein

© WireImage

What better person to bring Johansson's dream of playing a tree to the big screen than the notorious Hollywood producer accused of sexual misconduct by 87 women! Like Allen, Weinstein also denied all allegations against him, meaning he meets Johansson's criteria for innocence.

2. Roman Polanksi

Johansson seems to look for two things in her friends: a talent for filmmaking and an affinity for raping children. Who does that remind you of?! That's right: Roman Polanski, of course. Unfortunately, Johansson would have to travel to France to work with Polanski, who currently resides there as a fugitive from America after pleading guilty to his crimes. Oh, but then he wrote about them in graphic detail in his autobiography Roman by Polanski (Yes, that's really the title). Woody Allen supposedly pitched a memoir to publishers earlier this year, obviously modeling his life and crimes off the life and crimes of the Rosemary's Baby director.

3. Shane Dawson

In the age of the internet, the lines between types of media are becoming blurrier and blurrier. Why confine a talented and morally upstanding actress like Johansson to merely collaborating with big names in the film industry? Shane Dawson, a Youtuber who caught heat for posting a video in black face long after society knew better (oh, and possibly having sex with his cat), is the perfect mixture of sexually perverse and racially insensitive to work well with Scar Jo!

4. Bryan Singer

While Singer is known for his sexual preference for teenage boys instead of teenage girls (as is Allen's preference), Johansson would probably still be up for collaborating with the Usual Suspects director. After all, Singer also maintains his innocence, meaning that despite the many, many credible sources who have accused Singer of assault, Johansson would probably consider him 100% innocent!

5. James Toback

'The Private Life Of A Modern Woman' photocall, 74th Venice Film Festival, Italy - 03 Sep 2017 Maria Laura Antonelli/REX/Shutte

According to the Los Angeles Times, Toback, who has directed over a dozen films including Bugsy and The Pickup Artist, has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 200 women, who allege the director frequently lured women back to hotel rooms for "auditions and interviews," interactions that ended, according to many of the women interviewed, with Toback rubbing up against them or playing with himself in front of them and ultimately reaching climax. But once again, Toback has maintained that he never even met any of his accusers, making him fair game for a Scar Jo collab!

6. Muammar Gaddafi

The notorious Libyan dictator is deceased, so Johansson won't be able to work with him directly, but what's stopping her from starring in an autobiographical film of his life? She can play a Middle Eastern character, no problem! Gaddafi was known for kidnapping girls as young as 14 to imprison and repeatedly rape for years on end. But hey, his government continually denied these accusations, so Johansson would probably get along with him fine!

7. Satan

Sure, the devil is accused of a great many misdeeds by a great many people. Jesus himself said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him." But hey, that's just one guy's opinion! I wonder what ol' firey Fred would have to say for himself if he was just given a chance to speak back against all this ridiculous PC culture. Chances are that he would maintain he's had nothing to do with all the famine, war, natural disasters, genocides, rape, plagues, Hollywood's existence, or rampant cultural appropriation by white women. Therefore, Scarlett Johansson would probably "love" and "believe" Lucifer, if given the chance.