Wearing White Laces Where it's Black on Both Sides

The Docs with white laces The camo jacket The Docs with white laces

I reckon, or sincerely hope – I can't decide – this young man's choice footwear must be a stupid oversight. The combo, white laces in Doc Martens, as I've ever known, is a sign the wearer is a White Power Skinhead. 

It could be the kid doesn't know. I have to think he doesn't know. Kids are stupid. Wouldn't be surprised a kid wouldn't know. If he knew, the cognitive dissonance of holding White Power beliefs in the reality around him would be vertiginous. And stupid. Kids are stupid. 

We're in Bed-Stuy. We're departing the Broadway-Myrtle JMZ stop, a place Mos Def once referenced as a measure of blackness1. Mos Def said (video here) he's "blacker than midnight on Broadway and Myrtle." By way of that, Mos Def was saying things under the JMZ tracks are very black. That song came out in 1999, and yes, things have changed a lot. Gentrification has transformed the area. But not everything has changed. The demographics haven't been flipped. This train car is, from my unscientific visual survey, 90% non-white. This is not the place for White Power Statement. 

He's standing in front of me as I sit. Two women next to me have dreads. He's wearing a woodland pattern camouflage jacket. And a knit hat. But also some Japanese streetwear. Which makes him, what, a larval human? This is a twenty-something kid who's personal style is bricolage, appropriation, and chill things, who probably listens to a lot of fucking Vaporwave, and doesn't bother to check his sources. 

Some will say that white laces don't mean what it once meant, or they only mean a thing in certain context2. Southern Poverty Law Center, which kinda knows what it's talking about, lists the signifier in its Racist Skinhead Glossary, authored online in 2015. White laces: Bootlace color identifying a skinhead as being "white power," as opposed to a non-racist ("traditional") or anti-racist skin. 

Even if this kid doesn't know what his shoes are saying, someone else who does might, and read a sign of certain beliefs. For someone into White Power, that validates their racism. For someone who someone who wouldn't mind beating down a skin, this kid looks like a target. Either way, it perpetuates a problem. I thought about trying to talk to him, to ask if this was intentional. If it wasn't intentional, it could be unsafe for him. I couldn't think of a way to do that in a crowded car. Every though experiment ended badly, for me, or him, or the both of us. 

He got off at Essex street. I continued on to West 4th Street.  


  1. The song was "Mathematics" on the album Black on Both Sides. 
  2. Quite a few folks chimed in on the Instagram post.

Posted

Monday, December 12 2016