The Femme’s Guide to Riot Fashion

Elle Armageddon, CrimethInc., October 16, 2017

With the current surge in political activism over the last year, femmes all over the world have been wondering: How can I participate in the revolution, and look hotter than a Molotov cocktail while doing it? Look no further: we’ve got you covered better than a balaclava!

Disclaimer: for the purposes of this article, “rioting” designates any kind of assertive protest activity. As right-wingers try to stigmatize and suppress protest activity of all kinds as “rioting,” we aim to normalize it as something everyone can participate in.

There are several important considerations to keep in mind when assembling the perfect outfit for insurrection, including hair, makeup, mask, and which articles of black clothing will be both comfortable and fabulous.

Femmes with long hair will want to consider a style that keeps their hair out of their eyes and also does not impede their ability to put on a gas mask. French braids and their “inside-out” counterparts, Dutch braids, work remarkably well for these purposes, are compatible with any hair type, and offer the added benefit of keeping your hair from looking a mess if you wind up spending the night in jail. Femmes with shorter hair may not have the same considerations with regards to keeping their hair out of their eyes; but regardless of hair length, all femmes will probably want to think about also covering their hair as an identity-protecting measure.

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When selecting your wardrobe, make sure to choose pieces of clothing that allow you to bend, kneel, run, jump, reach, and climb, and that also make you feel good about yourself. Confidence is a key element of both style and riot safety. It is also worth keeping in mind that organic materials (like cotton and wool) will absorb chemical contaminants, while synthetic materials (like nylon) will help keep your body insulated and provide a better barrier between pepper spray and your skin, but will melt if they come into contact with something hot such as a tear gas canister. As a strong, fierce femme, you shouldn’t feel forced to choose between the two. Instead, consider layering as a way to get the best of both worlds, and remember: black is a universally-flattering color for all body types and skin tones!

In any ensemble, it’s important to think about the lines of your outfit. In form-fitting clothes, you run less risk of being grabbed by adversaries or getting stuck on fences, while looser-fitting clothes are better for concealing your body type and protecting your privacy. Neither choice is inherently better; both involve advantages and disadvantages. The important thing is to choose what feels good to you.

Now, every fabulous femme knows, shoes make or break an outfit—and riot fashion is no exception! As with the rest of your ensemble, you’re going to want to choose footwear that is comfortable and easy to move in. Contrary to other scenarios, you’ll want to select for function over form, and choose a pair of shoes which do not make you stand out from the crowd. Days (and nights) in the streets can be long; you are a gorgeous creature who deserves to treat yourself, so you may want to consider springing for squishy, supportive insoles for your steel-toed combat boots if you decide go that route. Alternatively, you could wear sneakers, which don’t provide quite as much foot protection or ankle support but are easier to run and climb in. Depending on your risk level, it may even be worthwhile to designate a pair of shoes solely for rioting and never wear them for any other purpose. In that case, you might choose to keep them in someone else’s house.

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If you’re interested in stepping up your accessory game and adding a gas mask or respirator to your ensemble, you’ll want to choose one that fits snugly around your nose and mouth, seals appropriately, and has a filtration rating appropriate for your needs.

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Whatever you decide to wear to your next action, the most important part of throwing down on the front lines is the comrades you make along the way. Get yourself a crew of other badass riot femmes, watch each other’s backs as you serve up stunning looks beyond the barricades, and remember: always anti-fascist, never anti-fashion!

Author’s Note: The repeated use of the word “femme” throughout this piece is deliberate. “Femme” should not be read as synonymous with “woman.” “Femme” is a queer identity, and is gender non-specific. This piece is not written for an audience of women, but rather by a nonbinary femme, for femmes of all genders. The advice shared in this article is the result of several years of experience on the front lines of heated street demonstrations, and is meant to help counteract the pervasive narrative that black bloc tactics are employed exclusively by cisgender, heterosexual men. Even within radical discourse, femmes’ contributions to militant action are consistently erased, while we are pigeonholed into doing the bulk of support labor. The best practices shared here are couched in satire and tongue-in-cheek humor, and are a direct effort at reclaiming the space femmes consistently hold on the front lines of the struggle.

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