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Column: Kamala – Our Resident Punk VP Nominee

Harris' Choice in Chuck Taylors and Their Radical Meaning
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Sporting Chuck Taylor sneakers, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) greets supporters Monday in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/Associated Press) – The Washington Post, September 8, 2020.

Clothes have meaning. Fashion is a message. We use it to tell people who we are, what we like, and what we stand for. The items we choose to put on our backs or on our feet help us stand out, showcase our defiance by competing with social norms, and make our rebellion tangible. Significant and cultural examples include Zoot Suits, Beyoncė’s meticulous choices in all costumes and designs, and Hillary Clinton’s white pant suits. Whether pieces are chosen intentionally or you are finding yourself amidst a current fashion trend, our daily shrouds have greater meaning than most of us give credit to. Kamala Harris is no exception.

Earlier this month, Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris broke the politico-wonk internet when she was spotted wearing Chucks at a campaign stop. My personal political Twitter-sphere was full of political operatives tweeting about buying Chucks to be like Kamala. A quick Google search will produce articles upon articles deciphering what her shoe choice means. And of course because all women must, Kamala was quickly defending her choice, stating that this wasn’t just a ploy to make her seem likable to the American public (although the Biden-Harris campaign smartly capitalized on this immediately, including new merch in the official Joe Biden campaign store that highlights her footwear choice alongside Joe Biden’s Aviators, again contrasting how cool it is to be a voting Democrat vs. a fascist pig), but part of her personality and closet space prior to the “unveiling.” Chucks have always been her “go to.”

Maya Harris, Kamala’s sister and best surrogate, lightly yet publicly defending her sister’s shoe choice.

Chuck Taylors have been the chosen shoe of punks for decades. Initially designed to be a basketball shoe, by the 70s and 80s better athletic footwear came along and the shoe was relegated to the “freaks and geeks.” Relatively cheap and durable (I bought my first pair at the age of 12 and they held up until I was 27), The Ramones popularized the shoe, looking flush with the novelty of their ripped black Levis and leather jackets. And so is the lore of the shoe that launched 1,000 records.

Besides the embedded cool factor that comes with a political figure wearing Chucks, it needs to be highlighted how monumental Kamala’s choice is. Here is a bi-racial woman making history as the Democratic VP nominee, not only saying no to heels, but choosing a shoe ensconced in counterculture and rebellion. Kamala’s mere existence is an act of defiance and joy in a country that refuses to definitively declare that Black Lives Matter and continues to relegate women to second-class citizenry.

But now in Chucks, Kamala can comfortably stand disobedient another day. Kamala is a punk rocker.

Originally from Wyoming, Emma is a former Democratic political operative turned writer. Since leaving politics, she can be found mouthing off, watching baseball, and reading Stephen King. Find her on Twitter: @enlaurent

3 Comments

  1. Love this! Go Kamala!

    My chucks are still going strong, nearly a decade later!

  2. Looking forward to voting for this woman while wearing my Chucks.

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