On Saturday, the Proud Boys, "groypers," and other conservative groups gathered in Washington D.C. for marches in support of outgoing President Donald Trump. There they trumpeted their "stop the steal" movement, pushing the disproven theory that there had been rampant voter fraud within the 2020 election. The groups decried the Republican party for not doing more to keep Trump in office, speakers suggested that there was still a chance to overturn the vote, and the event turned violent with multiple injuries. There was also some infighting with some marchers chanting "Shame!" at a Trump-supporting drag queen. But a LGBTQ+-owned fashion line was pulled into the fray.
Of the images and videos that went viral from Saturday's events, some were of a few protestors wearing yellow and black kilts. Beneath their kilts they had painted "F*ck Antifa" on their butts in a bid to own the libs.
"Disgusted to see members of 'Proud Boys,' a fascist terrorist [organization] wearing our products," the Virginia-based Verillas brand that manufactured the kilts tweeted. "We're LGBTQIA+ owned, operated, designed, and lived. We're against everything they stand for. I see $750 of our gear in the picture — I just gave $1,000 to the NAACP to redirect hate to love."
The quick decision came as a result of a "panicked phone call" between brand president Allister Greenbrier and vice president Justin LaRose who were tipped off to the photos by their retail partner Off Kilter Kilts.
"Nothing like this has ever popped up on our radar before," LaRose tells Out. But the two snapped into action, making the donation and removing the design from their site.
"We currently plan to try to make modifications that would be undeniably against bigotry and reclaim [the design]— and in the process offer trade-ins for any non-Proud Boy-affiliated purchasers so they aren't unwittingly stuck with a garment with this type of reputation," LaRose continues. This isn't the first time something like this has happened.
The Proud Boys adopted Fred Perry's polo as a bit of a uniform. Similarly, that brand stopped selling the merchandise as a result of the new context. The Verillas team wanted to prevent their Yellow-Black Warmetal design from turning up at other rallies and to prevent anyone from being mistaken for a Proud Boy as a result of wearing the garment.
"Our goal is to have everyone wearing Verillas be as comfortable in our clothes as they are in their own skin — that's just not possible with this kilt anymore as it is," LaRose explains. "But it's a purposely distressed kilt with an edge to it, so I think there are some things we could do, or we could have artists do, that would make it fit within our vision again and also maybe use them as an opportunity to contribute to other causes for social justice." The brand, which was founded in 2014, has done special "Pride"-themed gear since May 2018.
Positive feedback has poured in for the brand as a result of the quick action, coming at an important time for the brand. Though they came into 2020 "on track for record growth" in January and February, the pandemic, as well as social justice marches, sidelined the events that they see much of their business — Pride, conventions, and festivals.
"It has been a perfect storm of difficulty," LaRose says. "But we have grown to meet it and after this weekend I feel like we are stronger than ever."