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Controversial Political Content
Communist Chic contains references to and descriptions of controversial political ideologies as they are relevant to the subject of the page, which may be distressing for some people. User discretion is advised. This page exists for the purpose of documentation. The administrators and moderators do not necessarily endorse the philosophy associated with the aesthetic.

Communist Chic refers to the phenomenon of communist symbols and aesthetics being appropriated and accommodated within mainstream media and the Chic fashion trends surrounding it, notably in the United States but also in other countries of the former Western Bloc.

This involves the use of imagery associated with political movements like Marxism, Leninism, socialism, communism and Juche, including the hammer and sickle, red stars, red flags, or pictures of prominent political figures like Che Guevara. These symbols may be incorporated into various aspects of popular culture, ranging from clothing to accessories and even music videos and film sets, and those who use them might not fully understand what the symbols mean. Some of it may be used as a form of shock content or counterculture (just like Nazi Chic), while other people may purely "normalize" it or detach from the meaning of the symbology involved. This often results in backlash because they can be considered offensive to others, and they are even illegal in certain countries and promote stereotypes (See Criticism).

History[]

Emergence and Public Criticism[]

The origins of Communist Chic are hard to define. While some specific early examples can be pinpointed, such as the use of red leather outfits and Soviet flags by the Glam Rock-Punk band New York Dolls in 1975[1], the trend itself reflects broader societal shifts and the exact decade of origin remains unknown.

The popularity of Communist Chic boomed in the United States in 1998, since The Communist Manifesto became officially 150 years old. Some style experts like Simon Doonan claimed that the new, Modern Edition of the book released in New York City was a "desirable fashion accessory" no matter what political tones it had, since according to him "people were forgetting what Gulags and Stalin did in the Soviet Union"[2]. However, he was respectively met with strong disapproval. In 2009, Sebastian Duda, a prominent sociologist, philosopher, theologian, and journalist in Poland argued that young people that never experienced communism shouldn't be feeling nostalgic about it because they often don't understand it and that awareness about the world's recent history is potentially decreasing among younger generations[3]. Other journalists like Christine Esche and Rosa Mossiah argued that in post-Soviet countries, although Communist Chic is very unpopular, it may be rooted in disappointment with a capitalist society. In 2016, the Australian journalist Matthew Clayfield commented that communist iconography went from tools of propaganda to pure merchandise and a fashion trend of the capitalist system because of many people's poor historical knowledge[4]. During that same year in November, the Swiss-born and Paris-based company Vetements entered a political controversy because they released a red hoodie with a hammer and sickle symbol[5]. Another notable fashion designer is Gosha Rubchinskiy, who is from Russia and is the creator of his eponymous brand. His works take inspiration from Russia's recent history and some of his collections, namely "1984" (named after the book of the same name) released during Spring 2016, which included Soviet symbology and other references to Russian street fashion.

Fashion[]

Communist Chic fashion will typically include most Soviet clichés and symbology used in a dishonest way. Some common elements are:

  • The hammer and sickle symbol
  • Guerrillero Heroico (a famous picture of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's face)
  • Red flags with Soviet symbology
  • Red or yellow stars
  • Ushankas, typically with a Soviet badge
  • The Communist Manifesto, used as a "simple, fashionable item" rather than a historically significant book
  • Heavy use of the colors red, yellow and black

Che Chic[]

Chechic

A shirt of Che Guevara's face satirizing the "Che Chic" trend

Guerrillero Heroico is the name of a picture of Che Guevara's face taken by Alberto Korda. Being one of the famous photos in history, it has long been used in all types of fashion and merchandise; including T-shirts, flags (and also pride flags; note the irony of the Cuban revolutionary regime being unaccepting of homosexuality), cups, cars, quotes and even bikinis, underwear and action figures. Although being a really controversial aesthetic choice overall, some have dubbed the phenomenon "Che Chic" during the late 2000s[6]. Some people might decide to wear his face because they see him as the liberator of Cuba from American imperialism, while most other people might not even know who he was or why he's historically significant (some have even confused him for a rockstar). It's also worth noting that the image is in the public domain, hence why it can be freely used in merchandise.

Landmarks[]

A few landmarks around the world have been cited as examples of Communist Chic.

Leninstatue

The Statue of Lenin in Fremont (Seattle). Traces of vandalism such as spray paint and stickers can be noted.

One of them is the Statue of Lenin in Seattle, Washington. It was originally crafted by a Slovak sculptor, Emil Venkov, and it was meant to be displayed in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1988, although that was right before the Velvet Revolution. During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, multiple countries of the Eastern Bloc started promoting de-Leninization, and several monuments featuring Lenin and other communist figures were taken down. In 1993, the statue was brought to the United States by an American citizen, although he passed away before he got to officially display it. Since 1995, it has been standing on a temporary display in the neighborhood of Fremont and became a local landmark. The statue is often decorated and vandalized by visitors, and because of that, many have criticized it for being Communist Chic, as it overlooks the historical significance of Lenin and communism.

Criticism[]

Apart from the public criticism and opinions about this aesthetic, the term "Communist Chic" tends to be used pejoratively, since most people who wear these symbols may not know what they mean or are supposed to represent in history; therefore it carries a dismissive connotation, suggesting a shallow understanding of the historical realities of communist regimes. Some inviduals may dress like this because they enjoy the edgy and/or countercultural connotations (notably Simon Doonan's opinion about the Modern Edition of The Communist Manifesto) of the Soviet Union and the Cuban revolution, while others simply don't know why it's seen negatively. A concept similar but different from Communist Chic is "cultural appropriation", which refers to the adoption of items from minority cultures in mainstream media without understanding their origins or value. If anything, while not in reference to minority cultures itself, Communist Chic is an example of inappropriately adopting political symbols for fashion. Another important criticism of the aesthetic is that communist symbology is illegal in various countries (notably several post-communist nations) and they may come off as offensive to their citizens. Another one of Communist Chic's flaws includes the fact that it differs a lot from the true fashion Soviet soldiers wore during the years of the USSR's existence, and therefore it can promote stereotypes about Russia and other post-Soviet countries.

Media[]

Short Film[]

  • Che Guevara travels to the future (in Spanish) - In this satirical short film, depictions of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Fidel Castro travel to New York City in the future (2019), where they get shocked after seeing Che Guevara's face being used in capitalist merchandise; later on they become businessmen.
    The video went viral on Spanish-speaking social media.

Personalities[]

  • Katya Zamolodchikova - A persona of the American drag queen Brian Joseph McCook. The character itself is inspired by Russian culture, and sometimes Katya may wear Communist Chic fashion such as the sickle and hammer symbol or a red eyepatch with a yellow star.

Vendors[]

  • Gosha Rubchinskiy

Gallery[]

References[]

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