Style Obituary: Von Dutch, You Went Where No Brand Could Go

Listen, I am incredibly anti-neoliberalism. If you’re reading this and you aren’t, please get off this page and go and read some more Ayn Rand. That Atlas isn’t going to Shrug itself.
While many of my detractors might say that fashion is incredibly neoliberal, rotten to its very core, full of disdainful crooks who thieve from the pockets of every hype beast and label junkie out there, exploiting us into a position where we are lulled into thinking things like designer names are actually important, like those Acne sunglasses I bought last week are actually worth £185, like a Louis Vuitton x Rei Kawakubo bag will actually solve all your problems, sometimes fazshionne can prove us wrong.
As a self-appointed fashion historian, it is my job to pick holes in companies which have done this to our world, which is ending in 40 years according to people who actually know. But every now and then, as a self-appointed fashion historian, you come across a brand so pure, a brand so ethical, a brand so powerful in its messaging that everything you thought you once knew about your critiques of fashion – about neoliberalism even – is sent straight to trash and you have to reestablish your entire worldview because of it.
You all know which brand I’m referring to, right? Yes. Thought so.

It was a brand that made the proletariat feel like Paris Hilton, and Paris Hilton look like the proletariat.

For it was that brand that set the people free from their capitalistic obsessions. It was a brand rooted in pure freedom, in distilled socialism. It was a brand totally supported by everyone’s fave decisive socialist, Che Guevara. It was a brand that made the proletariat feel like Paris Hilton, and Paris Hilton look like the proletariat. And if that isn’t socialism, I don’t know what is.
That brand, my comrades, was the popular hat brand named after the world’s most famous pinstriper — Kenny Howard — in the Kustom Kulture movement. You remember that movement, right? That radical leftist gathering who used to paint and drive cars and motorbikes in the States from the 1950s through to today? Of course you do. Wikipedia does.
It was a brand so covetable yet so affordable that even I had a lime green and orange neon one, and I was poor. And if that isn’t socialism, then I don’t know what is.
It was so popular in fact that even if you couldn’t get the hat of your dreams, you could go down Morecambe market and get a goddamn fake. You could even get it for 'girls' (although gender is a social construct, and I really hope you filled out the GRA) with the brand name changed, the last word becoming that popular feminist word: Bitch.
You remember, right? I’m not clutching at straws, right? No. Didn’t think so.

Owning one of these items was a scream to the world that you were free: free of heart, free of mind, free of spirit and, ultimately, free of style.

For this brand was such a radical reimagining of the very threads of fashion that it saw everyone literally wearing hideous caps. It was no longer about the product itself, the object; no, it became about the radical association that came with the product, the object. Owning one of these items was a scream to the world that you were free: free of heart, free of mind, free of spirit and, ultimately, free of style.
For those of you who know what I’m talking about – hello fair sibling, we will burn this corrupt world to ruin. For those who don’t – I congratulate you for making it this far.
To continue: it was a brand so popular it had a comeback like a year and a half ago for like a week on some minor celebrities who are definitely socialists. It was a brand so fashionable, yet so socialist, that my girls and I all had one when we went to Lloret de Mar – a holiday popularly renamed Regret de Mar – between our AS and A-levels, because that’s the kind of people we were.
It’s impossible, really, to think of another brand which bridges the gap between hot trend and socialism; between men who buy tables at Mahiki and little gays in the North; between radical punk Marxist Kylie Jenner and the guy on the high street in Lancaster who used to shout "Six for a pound, your refillable gas lighters" day in, day out, year in, year out, and who for a short time sold this boundary-breaking garm alongside his six-for-a-pound-refillable-gas-lighters.
Designed by Meg O'Donnell
Yes, Von Dutch, you went where no brand could go. Unfortunately, I eventually ran out of my grandma's money and couldn’t keep you afloat, even though I’d bought three. Unfortunately, if you BrainyQuote 'quotes about socialism' a lot of them are Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill, those famed racist homophobes, shit-talking the very principle that allowed a brand like Von Dutch to exist. So, instead, I’ll leave you with this from Burlesque, the most socialist of all the movies:
Nikki: They don’t come to hear us sing!
Tess (played by Cher, about Christina Aguilera): They’ll come to hear HER sing!
And my god, they did.

More from Fashion

R29 Original Series