Decoding the Language of Extremist Clothing

You’re at a rally and you see a group of mostly white men, dressed alike and walking toward you. It’s a white supremacist group—but which one?

1. Identity Evropa

Mansplainer with a BA in Western civ.

1. High-and-tight Macklemore haircut 2. Tie, blazer/suit jacket/chunky sweater, button-down shirt 3. Polo shirt with Identity Evropa triangle button or logo 4. Into physical fitness (Greek-statue fetish), feats of strength, being shirtless in the company of men

WHAT HE BELIEVES: Being woke, but for those of “European heritage.” (Except Jews.) He and his blazer-clad buddies enjoy road-tripping to college campuses and handing out flyers with mottos like, “Protect Your Heritage” and “Let’s Become Great Again,” superimposed on moody images of Greek statues. Ultimate goal: to turn America into a white ethno-state. The “You will not replace us” chant, widely used in Charlottesville, originated with these guys.

EXAMPLE: The infamous torch-wielding, screaming guy from Charlottesville wore a white polo shirt embroidered with the Identity Evropa logo.

2. Proud Boys

Fight Club, but for goofy, white frat boys.

1. MAGA hat that probably replaced an ironic trucker hat 2. Hipster beard 3. Baggy flannel 4. Short, close-cropped high-and-tight haircut 5. Fred Perry twin-tipped T-shirt 6. Beer in hand

WHAT HE BELIEVES: The Proud Boy belongs to a “pro-West fraternal organization” that espouses a mishmash of conservative, patriarchal, and Silicon Valley-tinged ideas, without seeming to take any of them very seriously. His tenets include “venerating the housewife” and “glorifying entrepreneurialism,” along with promising not to masturbate. To climb the ranks, a Proud Boy goes through a much-YouTubed initiation rite in which he shouts the names of breakfast cereals while getting punched by his compatriots. Proud Boys have gotten flak from other alt-right groups for disavowing Nazis, as well as for welcoming nonwhite and gay members (although it’s unclear how many have joined). As part of their uniform, they’ve adopted a black polo with yellow stripes from the clothing brand Fred Perry, much to the company’s dismay. (Fred Perry polos were also favored by ‘80s British skinheads.)

(Note: The Proud Boys officially disavowed Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, but one of their members was a main organizer.)

EXAMPLE: Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes.

3. Traditionalist Worker Party

The white, working-class Trump voter much obsessed over by the New York Times.

1. Motorcycle-club vest 2. “Faith, Family, and Folk” T-shirt 3. Tucked in T-shirt, khaki pants, Midwestern-dad look 4. Cross necklace or other Christian jewelry 5. Shirts and shields with cog-and-pitchfork logo, celebrating industrial and rural workers. Middle American blue-collar vibe

WHAT HE BELIEVES: The Traditionalist Worker Party’s “traditional” values include white nationalism, homophobia, and distrust and hatred of black and Jewish people. You won’t find a lot of flashy haircuts and $200 blazers here. Matthew Heimbach, 26, runs the party out of a trailer home in Paoli, Indiana (though he grew up in wealthy suburban Maryland), and party rallies attract blue-collar or no-collar white workers. Like other alt-right parties, TWP dreams of a white ethno-state, with seemingly unconservative mix-ins like subsidized housing, free health care, and a national union, all contingent on the establishment of a “high-trust,” whites-only society. TWP is arguably the most effective and well-organized alt-right or white-supremacist movement out there today.

EXAMPLE: Matt Heimbach, leading organizer of Unite the Right.

4. Vanguard America

IT guy who’s not-so-secretly into white nationalism on the weekend.

1. White polo shirt, khakis, and mirrored sunglasses 2. Shield with Italian fascist symbol: bundle of sticks around an axe handle, sometimes carried by an eagle 3. Backpack with buckled chest strap 4. Sensible shoes

WHAT HE BELIEVES: The Vanguard America aficionado might sport a paramilitary look inspired by its “commander” and founder, a retired U.S. Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rank-and-file Vanguard America vibe is also typified by white polo shirts, khakis, and sensible shoes, as widely seen in Charlottesville. The group subscribes to the usual smorgasbord of white-nationalist and supremacist views, with more overtly neo-Nazi associations than groups like Identity Evropa and the Proud Boys. The Nazi-inspired “blood and soil” chant heard in Charlottesville was widely used by members of Vanguard America, who sported homemade “shields” bearing Italian fascist-style symbols.

EXAMPLE: James Fields, the alleged killer of Charlottesville protester Heather Heyer (he was photographed holding Vanguard paraphernalia although the group denied that he is a member).

5. Southern nationalists (KKK, Identity Dixie, League of the South)

A mish-mash of different groups with Klansman politics and fashion.

1. Open-hooded, or unhooded, silk Klan robe 2. Blood drop cross T-shirt

WHAT HE BELIEVES: Today’s Southern nationalist looking to join a group of like-minded individuals has a dizzying array of options. There’s Identity Dixie, the League of the South, the Southern Nationalist Party, state-based Southern-pride clans, and then, of course, various offshoots and regional variants of the straight-up KKK. Today’s Southern nationalist believes in much the same things as his forebears: white supremacy, Civil War grievances, segregation, and so on. His outfits and icons have evolved, however; many Klan robes worn at Charlottesville were only partially hooded, or wholly sans hood. Confederate flags of various design were, of course, in abundance, as were more niche Southern-pride symbols. For instance, some carried flags featuring the Black Saltire—an elongated white cross over a black background, used, among other things, to symbolize the loss of nationhood by both the Scottish and by American Southerners.

EXAMPLE: In-your-face Loyal White Knight of the KKK seen in Charlottesville.

6. Neo-Nazis of the National Socialist Movement

Everything you already know about Nazis, but with new shirts.

1. Black, Nazi-storm-trooper-inspired kepi hat 2. Black, nonmirrored sunglasses 3. BDU (aka battle dress uniform) 4. Red NSM shield with othala rune, the modern-day swastika for some 5. Shaved head or very close-cropped hair 6. Neck tattoos 7. National Socialist Movement shoulder patch on right arm 8. Well-shined black combat boots

WHAT HE BELIEVES: While some contemporary alt-right groups, such as Identity Evropa, promote the separation of people into different countries based on their conceptions of race, many neo-Nazis continue to prefer genocidal solutions. The term “neo-Nazi” is somewhat amorphous, in part because the National Socialist Movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the United States,” is okay with members being part of other racist groups while also affiliating with the NSM. Nazi imagery was on full display in Charlottesville. One featured speaker sported a swastika armband, and the flag of the National Socialist Movement was included in an official organizing flyer. Ten years ago, the group ditched its widely mocked Hitler’s Army-style brown shirts for an all-black “battle dress uniform,” billed as “NSM streetwear” on its site.

EXAMPLE: Longtime NSM “commander” Jeff Schoep, who lost white-nationalist cred after it was revealed that his ex-wife is of Arab descent and that her child had a black father.

7. Kekistan

#Gamergate for white nationalists.

1. Make America Great Again hat or skateboard helmet 2. Flag of Kekistan used as a cape

WHAT THIS IS: Where to begin? Kekistan is a made-up country invented by white-nationalist 4chan users on the site’s political message board. Kekistan’s greatest enemies are “normies” who insist on political correctness, and its greatest friend is Donald Trump. Less a movement than a meme-obsessed, internet fever swamp, Kekistan’s flag riffs on a German Nazi war flag designed by Hitler, swapping out an iron cross for the 4chan logo. In the grand tradition of trolls everywhere, Kekistanis insist on being taken seriously while reserving the right to claim, at any time, that they are just kidding.

EXAMPLE: Kekistan cape-wearer from Portland, Oregon.

Update, 10/4: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the cape-wearer as being in Charlottesville. We regret the error.

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