What do the victims of lynch mobs, witch trials, and the holocaust all have in common? Wealthy white men identify with their struggles.

Donald Trump, comparing his treatment in the impeachment inquiry to a lynching, is just the latest in a long line of wealthy white men who recognize a commonality between the people who've been horribly mistreated by the dominant culture and the people who are at the center of the dominant culture. There's nothing like a centuries-long legacy of brutally clinging to power to suddenly transform you into an underdog when people start to challenge your natural role at the top of the social hierarchy.


Donald Trump's "Lynching" Tweet Twitter

That's what makes this such a terrifying time to be a rich white guy. Cultural activists want to amplify the accusations of women you (allegedly) assaulted, minority groups want to reform the police forces that solely protect your interests, and political candidates want to take the wealth that you justly harvested from crops of underpaid workers. As wealthy white men are eager to tell you, we live in a culture that is cruelly victimizing wealthy white men.

The Emmet Till Memorial Covered in Bullet Holes


Donald Trump gets that. Who can better relate to the experience of Emmett Till than the man whose key demo vandalized Emmett Till's memorial to the point that it had to be replaced with a bulletproof version? Who could possibly understand the struggle of the black Americans, and the historic horror of lynching, better than the man who wanted to close down the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a private tour on MLK Jr. Day—and who couldn't be shown anything "difficult" there, because he was in a bad mood? Why should he have to see the cruelty that marginalized people dealt with in the past, when he and wealthy white men like him are living it right now. Can you imagine being Jordan Peterson, having to deal with a lot of people saying mean things to him on Twitter just because he has built his career on the refusal to acknowledge the existence of trans people? He no longer feels safe to even post his own tweets! Is there any clearer example of erasure? I literally can't think of one. Doesn't he deserve some sort of space where he can speak his mind without being bullied by those with less power and cultural status? A space that's safe, if you will? He is a unique and fragile individual, as precious as those little things that snow is made of (what are those called again?). We have to protect him!



And you have to feel bad for Brett Kavanaugh, who had his life so destroyed by multiple, corroborated accusations of sexual misconduct that he's been forced to serve on the Supreme Court and continue coaching his daughter's basketball team. Meanwhile, his most notable accuser has the luxury of remaining in hiding and no longer teaching more than a year after she recounted her deepest trauma in the most public venue imaginable. Remember how nice the Republican senators were about her testimony, just before they voted for the man who assaulted her?

Brett Kavanaugh Being a Sad Little Boy REUTERS

And consider the lot of Tom Perkins, the tech billionaire who sounded the alarm on how bad things were getting for rich white guys all the way back in 2014, comparing his experience to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. Poor guy (not literally poor, obviously, that would be gross). And Trump's climate adviser, William Happer, who has made a lucrative career advocating for fossil fuel companies, made a similar observation about the demonization of carbon dioxide, yet we continue to give Greta Thunberg a platform to spread her carbon hate, with only death threats and constant harassment to put her in her place. Won't someone please think of the oil executives?!

Truly, unlike every other instance in recorded history, in the modern day it's the wealthy and powerful white men who are on the receiving end of oppression. The struggle is real.

CULTURE

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. static.giantbomb.com

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. i.imgur.com

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. i.redd.it

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. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

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. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

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.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

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.

Implications

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.