The old proverb, “clothes don’t make the man, a man makes the clothes” was thrown out the window when a social experiment proved the opposite.
In a special feature with BuzzFeed, artist Pedro Fequiere decided to sport a combination of slacks and casual clothes for a week to see what kind of reactions he would get. The reason behind his experiment was his constant run-in with white people who seemed to be unformattable by his presence.
“Just the other day, a woman grabbed her child and hurried into a store to get away from me when I was walking around the block,” he writes. “I don’t want to be another statistic and have my appearance be the blame for it. But I won’t conform and change my appearance just to make people feel more comfortable around me. I dress myself exclusively to fit my mood, which is often ‘laid-back/something I can skate in’ chic, or whatever. ¯\_(?)_/¯ I’m curious to see how much of an effect my wardrobe choices have on my life as a young black man in Los Angeles.”
His constant back and forth on his appearance was put to the test when he decided to dress up and down and perform the same activities for a week to analyze the reactions received.
A photo posted by P B L A C K K (@pblackk) on
While he was welcomed with a warm embrace on the times he wore slacks, blazers and ties to establishments like Lulu’s, Club Monaco and Louis Vuitton, he realized he was either ignored or further “made aware of his identity” when he sported a hoodie or a red flannel shirt.
He also realized gestures made to the elderly when he dressed casually weren’t as widely accepted as his sleeker getups. “It’s this same assumed uneasiness that can cause a police officer to shoot an unarmed black child, teenager, or adult,” he explained.
“This predisposed perception of black men being violent criminals gives others the consent to write off our mistreatment as something we deserve rather than prejudice and injustice. What I wore while dressing down is no different from what an average college student might wear to class,” he added. “But why does a woman need to protect her belongings from me in broad daylight? Why must it be for an interview if I’m dressed up? Why does a group of retail associates need to divert all their attention to me when I’m in a hoodie? Or why do they feel I’m more approachable with my shirt tucked in? I don’t know, but I shouldn’t have to change what I’m wearing to not be feared.”
Check out Pedro’s day-by-day notes on the experiment here.