How Denim Became Associated With The Civil Rights Movement

Students marching
Leslie Taylor-Grover
March 28, 2021

What Civil Rights activists wore often drew scrutiny from the white media. Their clothing shouldn’t have made that much of a difference, but they believed looking “respectable” would help their cause. Soon, though, young activists changed the game.

Groups of marchers in Alabama broke the trend of marching in their Sunday best. They didn’t care what whites thought about them, and showed up wearing one particular article of clothing to demonstrate that we didn’t have to cater to white tastes to earn justice. What did they wear?

Blue jeans! Jeans were seen as the clothes of poor rural farmers, and certainly didn’t match with the image Civil Rights leaders were “supposed” to portray to the white public. However, they were necessary and practical. Why?

Blue jeans served as an additional barrier against white terrorist attacks by dogs, knives, and beatings. So marchers began to wear them, regardless of what the white media said. Once MLK and other leaders began wearing them over their clerical collars, all the foolishness started to die down.

To this day our personal choices, including fashion, will always be picked apart by those who seek to control us. We must never allow this, as these are attempts to ensure our people “stay in our place” and accept the status quo of racism! We deserve respect because we are human beings, not because of how we dress.

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