A friend of mine sent me a picture of a hat he was going to buy. It said “Toecutter” on it. Okay, cool word, great. But, Toecutter references at least two things: 1) the antagonist from the original Mad Max movie; and, 2) the metal band of the same name, referencing that character. It turns out that my friend had no knowledge of either of these things, and liked the hat because it was a style that fit his, apparently, odd-shaped head. So, now he has a hat he likes and that fits, but will be faced with people responding to the references it points at, but neither of which he is a particular fan of. Either metalheads or Australian post-apocalyptic movie nerds will smile and nod in acknowledgement of how awesome the hat is. First question, then: should he have bought the hat?
Wearing merch from things you don’t like or know is often looked poorly upon - like buying a Pink Floyd shirt from Urban Outfitters. Do you have to be a fan to have the swag? I’ve been at a show more than once and liked a shirt or sticker or whatever, and didn’t buy it because I wasn’t a real fan of the music. Should I (we) just get over it and buy the shirt if we like it?
Maybe these seem like pretty innocuous issues, but, let’s blow it out a little. The swastika is a centuries-old symbol found all over the world - from Greece to India to China. It has been and still remains a symbol of abundance and balance to many cultures. So, then, if I go to a temple in, say, Thailand, and buy a shirt with a swastika on it, to show that I went to Thailand and that I liked the meaning of their religious symbol and wanted to showcase that, what happens when I wear it back in the Western world, perhaps in Israel, or LA, or Utah? The implications of the swastika change to an audience more aware of the impact of Nazism.
Okay, big leap there, from Toecutter to Nazis, but the issue remains the same - that of the viewer and the viewed. Being mistaken for a metalhead isn’t a big deal, but you probably don’t want to be mistaken for a Nazi.