Forever 21 Is Selling Confederate Flag Bandanas, And Here’s A Half Dozen Ways To Wear An Inoffensive One This Summer

I mean, I’m a pretty big redneck from Texas, and even I am a little surprised.
Publish date:
May 1, 2013
shoppables, style, Forever 21, wtf, offensive, bandannas

I love the South. I love blazing hot summers, cowboy boots and boys with drawls. I love porch sittin’, sweet tea, seersucker and horseshoes. I especially love my uncle’s homemade Texas Lightning. (Also known as moonshine.)

What I don’t love is the horribly dated idea that everyone in the South is a racist, hateful, white supremacist. The continued popularity of the confederate flag in the South doesn’t help matters much. I see confederate flags with some regularity when I go home to Texas, but they are mercifully getting rarer and rarer.

I understand why people are drawn to the rebel flag -- I mean, it’s called the rebel flag! I hate rules! I’m a rebel! Plus, stars and stripes are riveting in any configuration -- I personally love hard, angular edges in art, graphics, fashion prints and symbols. But the confederate flag is one symbol that just can’t be revived. The connection between the flag and slavery is just too great -- whenever a symbol is present, ideology is present too. Even in 2013, the confederate flag still bears weight.

I was stoked to walk into the flagship Pasadena, California, Forever 21 last week and see an entire rack of bandannas for sale. I personally own almost 100 different bandannas, and in the summer, I’m absolutely never without one in my handbag. But upon closer inspection, I realized that the print on one particular F21 bandanna was rather peculiar:

Yes, that’s a confederate flag bandanna for sale at my local Forever 21 in Southern California, a melting pot of all races, creeds and colors if ever there was one. I laughed to myself, snapped a photo, and moved along, thinking it was a little strange that they’d be selling something with such a loaded symbol. After about 20 minutes of shopping, I realized that it was more than strange -- it was downright shocking and crazy. So I went back to look at them again.

THEY WERE SUDDENLY GONE FROM THE TABLE WHERE I SAW THEM -- and when I went to pay for the crap I was buying, a salesperson had all of them in his hands at the counter and it appeared he was marking them “out of store inventory.” A search of their website doesn't turn them up for sale either -- so I'm not sure if maybe they just were so popular that they sold out immediately, or if my particular Forever 21 pulled them off the shelves once they realized how offensive they were. If they did in fact pull the bandannas in question, I find it pretty rich that they still have racks on racks on racks of crappy faux "Native American" print garments for sale. At least F21 is an equal opportunity offender.

You may be wondering what on earth bandannas could possibly be good for except to tie your hair up at the gym. I for sure use 'em for that purpose, but they are also way cool any way you can think of to wear them. I love mine tied around your head like a fancy scarf, worn around the neck cowboy style, or wrapped around a wrist like a bracelet.

I started wearing one around my neck to hide a stupid rash I had on my chest, but then I started to love the look. It's so Billy The Kid meets Bret Michaels of Poison. It's also hella functional -- I find myself puling mine up around my face when it gets windy so I don't breathe in a bunch of dust. (Hooray for asthma-induced fashion inspiration!)

They obviously come in handy to blow your nose if you have a cold or to wipe your face if you get sweaty. But if you are feeling REALLY COOL, (or your hair is REALLY DIRTY) you can wear your bandanna tied around your forehead like the one and only Axl Rose.

I also sometimes tie one around my boots for total 80's hair metal rocker flair style. It's great when your whole outfit is boring and it needs a boost. (Yes, I wear boots even in the summer -- there are a ton of hazards on the set, and when I go to the desert, I am terrified of snakes.) My near non-stop boot wearing may be why I'm such a fan of boot accoutrements.

AND THEN THERE ARE PETS THAT WEAR BANDANNAS! That's my kryptonite. I torture my pets with seasonal bandannas all the time.

I've recently been buying my bandannas at Hobby Lobby, of all places. I am especially in love with weirdo ones that have bizarre prints on them, like this candy-coated bandanna:

None of their bandannas are more than $1.99, so it's a great way to accessorize yourself cheaply (and usefully!) in the dead of summer.

The problem with brand new bandannas is that they are way too stiff, and don't lay properly on your neck. This is part of the reason that I thrift my bandannas whenever I can -- they need to be as soft and flexible as a newborn kitten to function properly. Luckily, there's a costume department hack for that! Wash your new bandannas in the hottest water you can, adding in 2-3 cups of Tri-Sodium-Phosphate, or TSP. (You can find it at your local hardware store.) Don't be fooled by imitators--the stuff you want looks like this:

TSP is commonly used as a degreaser -- when applied to fabric, it breaks down the stiff sizing used in cheap cottons, giving them a vintage, lived in feel. We use this trick on shows all the time at work to make a character's clothes look a little more "real" and lived in. The TSP method sadly doesn't work in the new high-efficiency washers, as your fabric needs to steep in it for a while.

TSP doesn't hurt the washing machine at all -- so pour some in an old box of laundry soap and get busy covertly ageing stuff at the local laundromat if you have a fancy pants water-saving washer at home!

When I'm not actively using whatever bandanna I'm carrying around at the moment, I tie it on the handle of my bag. I'll never get tired of hanging crap all over my purse like a preschooler.

Am I the only one who caught the confederate flag bandannas for sale at F21? A Google search turns up one solitary Twitter user who noticed it too -- if it wasn't for her, I may have thought I'd dreamed the whole thing.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.