Fake News Jeans: Travesty or Sign of the Times?

Posted January 10, 2018 6:33 p.m. EST

Since the Golden Globes on Sunday, the question of what to wear to the various awards shows has become even more fraught than usual. It’s not just about a pretty dress any more, but about solidarity, statement making and so on.

Luckily, however, a solution to at least one such conundrum is at hand. Though there is as yet no official ceremony or red carpet attached to President Donald Trump’s Fake News awards, scheduled to take place Jan. 17 (after being postponed from this past Monday), anyone who suspects that he or she may be in the cross hairs has a perfect potential outfit. Or at least part of one.

Topshop, the British retailer, has created a pair of jeans in semi-stretch denim, with a red stripe down the side blaring, “Fake News” over and over again in white block letters. They look rather like a nod to artwork by Barbara Kruger. Just imagine them with a tuxedo jacket and heels instead of the sweatshirts they are paired with on Topshop’s website, and bingo!

“The term ‘Fake News’ became so ubiquitous last year that it was officially named the word of the year, so we thought we’d immortalize this of-the-moment phrase on a pair of our jeans,” said Mo Riach, Topshop’s head of design, by way of explanation. The jeans, which cost $90 and come in gently faded denim with a mid-rise and straight legs, were a trending product on the brand’s website by Tuesday, with 30 percent of the sales originating in the United States. By Wednesday, they were sold out.

Still, not everyone was so thrilled with the idea. Then some commentators got a little snarky about upset liberals.

Presumably part of the issue is that Topshop, while known for its slogan items (it has sold an average of one slogan T-shirt a minute since September, according to a spokeswoman), is not really known for its political positions, so the jeans smack of bandwagoning as opposed to a call to arms during a sensitive cultural moment.

Whether you think the jeans are a travesty or a triumph, however, the truth is that clothes have always been a popular outlet for political positioning, and this is increasingly true in the Trump administration. Trump is, after all, a president who loves branding of all kinds, is obsessed with image and visual messaging, has an alliterative way with a nickname and whose occasionally garbled use of language (remember covfefe?) has become part of the national lexicon in a way that practically begs a coffee cup.

The flurry has all picked up steam since the presidential campaign, which included fashion statement making and symbolism on both sides: women who dressed up in pantsuits or suffragist white to support Hillary Clinton, and Trump and his “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap. That particular accessory was adapted late last year by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who created “Boring Company” black baseball caps to promote his Los Angeles tunnel-drilling initiative.

The fashion runways, too, have been full of messaging. There was Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” T-shirt version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk and Prabal Gurung’s all-slogan show finale, with models wearing multiple phrases on their shirts, including “I am an immigrant” and “We will not be silenced.” During the Globes, Connie Britton wore a shirt with the message “Poverty Is Sexist” embroidered across the torso. Last summer, Clinton modeled a special T-shirt made to raise money for Planned Parenthood bearing a pointed quote from Trump that became a cause unto itself: “Nasty Woman.”

All of which suggests that while we can whine all we want about the superficiality of addressing these issues via style, none of this is going away any time soon, and it will probably get more ... well, trendy. We’ve just moved on from tees and hats to pants. The whole wide wardrobe world is now up for word grabs! (How’s that for a tongue twister?)

It’s only a matter of time before some other clever denim company takes a page from Topshop’s book and realizes that Trump has recently provided us with yet another gem of a phrase, a version of which is just bound for clothing: Very Stable Jeanius.

Can’t you just see it?