Nazi Chic

ann coulter

Nazi chic refers to the approving use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture, especially when used for taboo breaking or shock value rather than out of genuine nazist sympathies. Its use began in the mid-seventies with the emergence of the punk movement in London; during the Sex Pistols’ first television appearance a person of their entourage was seen wearing a swastika. Nazi chic was later appropriated by the fashion industry.

In the 1970s punk subculture, several items of clothing designed to shock and offend The Establishment became popular. Among these punk fashion items was a T-shirt displaying a Swastika, an upside-down crucifix and the word ‘DESTROY’– which was worn by Johnny Rotten, seen in the video for ‘Pretty Vacant.’ Rotten wore the swastika another time with a gesture that looked like a Nazi salute.

In 1976, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees was also known to wear a Swastika armband with fetishistic clothing, including fishnets and a whip. These musicians are commonly thought to have worn such clothing for shock value directed towards the British WWII generation rather than being genuinely associated with any Nazi ideologies, and those with such interests likely became part of the Nazi punk or white power skinhead subcultures.

In 1984, two T-shirt designs featuring Adolf Hitler became popular. The more famous of the two was the ‘Adolf Hitler European Tour’ design, which featured a picture of Hitler against the backdrop of a map of Europe, with conquered territories shaded; and tour dates. A person attending an REM concert in1986 wearing the shirt was asked to leave by Michael Stipe. A less popular T-shirt featured Hitler giving heil salute, and a yo-yo hanging from his hand. The text read ‘European yo-yo champion 1939-1945.’ Sale of the apparel led to a legal case in Germany, in an attempt to have it banned as ‘glorifying genocide.’ Local courts ruled against the shirt makers, although Bavarian state courts later ruled in their favor.

In an interview with a German newspaper, Bryan Ferry, the English musician, acknowledged that he calls his studio in west London his ‘Führerbunker.’ He was quoted as saying, ‘My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves. … Leni Riefenstahl’s movies and Albert Speer’s buildings and the mass parades and the flags – just amazing. Really beautiful.’ Ferry later denied ever making this quote, and the newspapers printed a retraction.

The American glam metal band Mötley Crüe inserted in the booklet of their 1994 self-titled album an image of Nikki Sixx dressed as a Nazi. Officially, that photo was related to a lyric about the mistake of judging by appearances, but actually it was inserted to mock the media. The discographer decided to cancel that photo and to reprint the whole booklet. In the Mötley Crüe autobiography, ‘The Dirt,’ the band writes about their ‘Nazi Wednesdays,’ in which they used to walk down the street dressed in Nazi uniforms.

Nazi chic is a controversial topic in the fetish clothing subculture. The symbolism of fascist, communist, and other ideologies remains popular, and a common compromise is to adopt the main design features of Nazi-era clothing– such as peaked caps, jackboots and trenchcoats– but not to include any explicit Nazi symbols. Sometimes substitute symbols are used, with designs that clearly reference the design styles of Nazi symbols without directly copying them.

Uniforms and other imagery related to Nazi Germany have been on sale in East Asia, where some consider it fashionable. Hong Kong and Japan have each witnessed a growth in the casual wearing of SS uniforms, as well as increased interest in White power music. Sometimes in East Asia, Nazi uniforms are used as part of cosplay (costume play). In South Korea, an area generally isolated from Nazi cultural influences during the Nazi era, Time magazine observed in 2000 ‘an unthinking fascination with the icons and imagery of the Third Reich.’

In some parts of the world, World War II is not taught in schools as a battle of political ideologies, but as a conventional war. This type of education treats Hitler and the Nazi Party as charismatic and powerful leaders of countries during wartime, instead of war criminals as elsewhere. George Burdi, the former head of the neo-Nazi record label Resistance Records, claimed to have sold many CDs to Japan, because some Japanese believe themselves to be the master race of the East. In Turkey, Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ is an annual bestseller.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.