Nike has pulled its $80 Nike x MMW balaclava, designed in a collaboration with the fashion designer Matthew Williams, following accusations that it was promoting gang violence. The criticism started with one YouTuber, who reposted a photo from Nike’s marketing materials.
I think you’ve made a big mistake on this one, targeting the current Gang culture for profit, there’s 100’s of dead kids parents that you should be thinking about before you made these, let alone put them out for sale. pic.twitter.com/lPRoYWzyWX
— MR DT © (@MrDtAFC) August 19, 2018
The photo series mixed the performance garment with a casual t-shirt and what many have interpreted as holsters. In fact, the chest piece appears to be part of the Nike collection itself, and a riff on Matthew Williams’s own work for his Alyx brand. (According to High Snobiety, Kanye West has been spotted in one of Williams’s chest rigs before.) Meanwhile, Balaclavas have been associated with Drill music in London, a style of hip-hop born in Chicago that is scary to some in London due to its focus on violence.
Over a thousand people liked the tweet above, and nearly 700 people shared a Facebook post, by the nonviolence activist Paul McKenzie, that’s critical of Nike. The complaints largely focus on suggestions that Nike’s balaclava could promote the city’s growing crime, which has surged to 1,299 stabbings between January and April.
Now @Nike @nikestore @NikeStoreEurope Are endorsing gun and knife crime, as well as enforcing racial profiling. Well done!!!!!#nike #balaclava #racialstereotypes #knifecrime pic.twitter.com/YOmt0vmS6I
— Liss ???????????????????????? (@Liss_11) August 20, 2018
Nike told Metro, ‘These products were part of a wider Nike Training collection, styled on different models and available in multiple markets around the world. We are in no way condoning or encouraging the serious issue of criminal and gang culture.”
Nike is, of course, far from the only fashion house to release a balaclava–a term that originated in the Crimean war–this year. Militarism has long had a foothold in the fashion industry, as an instant provocation on the runway. But we’re living in a post-Brexit, Trumpian era where social and political debate imbues every aspect of culture, and today, a balaclava is more than a balaclava.