Taking Back the Tri-Corner
When did progressives cede eighteenth-century costuming as political expression to conservatives? In the name of liberty, it’s time to take back the tri-corner hat and all that goes with it. Namely, knee-breeches.
Watching post-Supreme Court healthcare reform ruling coverage, I noticed a demonstrator dressed, more or less, as a 1776-era minuteman. He had the waistcoat, the knee-length breeches, the white stockings and the clunky shoes. I immediately knew that he advocated conservative beliefs because no one on our side dresses in 18th century historical costume. He may have been chanting “repeal” or “Roberts is a socialist” but the images weren’t accompanied by sound so I couldn’t be sure.
It doesn’t matter what he said because looking at him I understood his point: well-fed middle class men believe that government is tyrannizing them much as it tyrannized English colonists in the mid-late eighteen century in New England and coastal North America. Probably, if I surveyed colonial costumed protestors, I’d learn that their families likely immigrated to the US in the late 19th or early 20th century and missed the American Revolution altogether. But, why get picky?
Conservatives own the minuteman patriot look and it’s time to change that. It shouldn’t be that hard. Our protests and political conventions already produce a remarkable range of clothing choices. In that context, knee-breeches aren’t much different from what we’re used to seeing. If a grim-reaper or an anti-imperialist Uncle Sam could instead don crossed-belts and a tri-corner hat, we’re half way there.
We can’t get hung up on made-in-the-USA labels if we’re going to claim 18th century costume. Most of that gear is produced outside of the US, a point lost on conservative protestors seeking to affirm American strength and dominance. We simply must accept the idea that patriotic clothing produced by child-labor makes us more patriotic, somehow.
This week, as we celebrate Independence Day, let’s take back the tri-cornered hat from its archetypically conservative identification. There’s something joyfully American about goofy costumes. Our side is doing all the heavy policy lifting. We should also have fun, dressing the part for our true defense of liberty. Now, where’s my pewter tankard?