Oh My God Where Did You Get That ADORABLE Nazi Tee?

Dear Reader,

The other day I was at the gym when I spotted a dude wearing this T-Shirt from American Apparel.

It’s a pretty rad shirt. I love pink. I love triangles. And I love graphic tees. But the shirt is also a political statement. Now, not only can you buy ugly/ironic non-functioning spectacles and short shorts at American Apparel (thank god), you can also buy fashionably political t-shirts. Is this cool? Or perplexing? Or both? Also, I want one. Is that okay?

And now for a mini Gay history lesson, as told by someone whose knowledge of Gay history is almost as thin as Nicole Ritchie in that famous running-on-the-beach-in-a-diaper photograph.

The pink triangle was originally used by Nazis to label the Gays in concentration camps. It was appropriated by Gays in the 1970s and made popular by the Act Up movement. For those of you who don’t know Act Up, it was started by Homo Activist Larry Kramer in the 80s in response to the fact that Ronald Reagan was doing nothing about a health crisis that was killing the entire Gay community. In short, Act Up was an advocacy group that protested the government’s lack of action in AIDS research and the provision of experimental AIDS treatments for people with AIDS. They were fighting to save lives, and were thus awesome.  They protested and protested. The protests looked like this:

The Act Up protests often attracted counter protesters like these:

…Um, yes I do. Have you seen me?

Artists, like Keith Haring (above) played a huge role in Act Up, creating visuals to spread their message. Sidenote: I love Keith Haring. Love. Love. Love.

The signature of Act Up is the triangle. Which is right side up, unlike the upside down triangle used to label the Gays in Nazi concentration camps. Inverting the Nazi triangle was a way of negating it, flipping it on its head to use it as a symbol of Gay empowerment. A lot of interesting art was made utilizing that pink triangle:

Which brings me back to this American Apparel t-shirt:

Why is the triangle upside down, Nazi-style? Obviously there is some sort of appropriation/subversion thing going on considering American Apparel owner Dov Charney is Jewish, as is this model (who I know in real life because all Gay people living in Los Angeles know each other. It’s true). But I’m still a little confused…

I don’t disapprove of this shirt because American Apparel has made it clear that they are pro-Gay and pro-Jew. But it does seem kind of crazy to sell a shirt with a Nazi symbol on it without explanation. In all honesty, they probably put the triangle upside down because it’s more flattering than a regular triangle, accentuating your broad shoulders and that tiny little waist! And wouldn’t you prefer the Nazi triangle to the Act Up triangle if the Nazi one makes you look better? Don’t answer that.


12 thoughts on “Oh My God Where Did You Get That ADORABLE Nazi Tee?

  1. Orlando,
    I think it’s a slenderizing technique for the homos! wide shoulders, narrow waist. I want an upside down triangle torso, not a pear-shape triangle. Just me thoughts on the subject. 🙂

  2. I don’t think there’s an appropriation/subversion thing at American Apparel. I think an upside-down triangle just highlights the shoulders, whereas a rightside-up one accentuates the hips. That’s what most gays care about. (At least in DC. I can’t image LA is less superficial than DC, though.)

    I don’t think gays know enough about gay history to be subversive or appropriate things, except “fag”. *choke*

  3. when I first saw those “you don’t have to be gay” anti-protesters (is that the word for them?) I thought they meant that you don’t have to be gay to have aids. way to be ambiguous….

  4. Wow. Thanks for the history lesson. I had no idea Nazis gave a crap about who was gay. How bizzarre.

    Neither here nor there, but hunky male model looks like he needs to zip up his fly in that first photo.


  5. Most gay males in America born after about 1986 have no idea what the pink triangle’s origins are because this part of history gets left out of WW2/civil rights curriculum in public schools.

    I hope Kurt is kidding. 😛

  6. Ryan,
    Tongue firmly planted in cheek! But did you see what Matthew said a few minutes later? Truth can always be found in humor! 🙂

  7. Lots of pink triangle gayness has the triangle with the wide part on top. I don’t think it’s usually a decision to make a statement about it either way. And the pink triangle in any direction is a lot better than the rainbow flag.

  8. I think the triangle was used point down originally, as a statement of defiance to the Nazi persecution. We appropriated that particular symbol for good. In fact, I’ve always thought that was the correct way to display the pink triangle for queer rights. If you look up images on Google you will find it displayed both ways — similarly, you will find the international no symbol displayed both correctly and incorrectly. I think the shirt referenced is correct in the original use sense. Turning the triangle upside down (point up) is a weakening of the symbol. The action is the result of too many marketing uses and occasional graphic designers without a sense of real history.

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