Vests Are Having a Moment in the Fashion of Politics

Paris is still hot and sticky from its recent heatwave but on July 12th in the halls of the Panthéon, the voices of hundreds of undocumented migrants can be heard shouting in unison, “What do we want? Papers. For whom? Everyone.”

The scene is as chaotic as it is impressive. Standing on the ashes of national figures such as Hugo, Voltaire and Curie, they call for the right to hold documentation allowing them to live and work legally in France. The ‘Gilets-Noirs’ (black vests), as they have chosen to name themselves, can be distinguished not by a physical item of clothing as their name might imply, but rather by the symbolic white papers that fill their hands, shaking furiously in the air. The self-appointed title of Gilets-Noir is, of course, in reference to the ‘Gilets-Jaunes’ protestors, who in the name of rising fuel tax took to the streets all over France wearing their namesake high visibility yellow vests.

Collage by Melanie Steen