Two important cultural conversations have taken hold of the nation in recent weeks, and while they may seem disparate, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) has found the place where they intersect. Those questions are of course: 1. What is everyone wearing for vaccine summer after a year of sweatpantsed isolation, and 2. Is the Dr. Seuss estate’s decision to cease publishing a handful of unpopular and wildly racist Dr. Seuss books destroying America? Malliotakis—a conservative from Staten Island who most recently voted against Biden’s Covid relief bill—has staked her flag in the sand in the form of a tweet and a truly wild selfie of her foot. In the image, she’s wearing a light-blue Dr. Seuss-themed tennis shoe with a dingy workout sock and implying that her “new kicks” are a viable stance against “cancel culture” despite the fact that, as her mentions note, she is in a sense sending money to the Dr. Seuss estate—the “cancellers” in question—that licensed these images to the shoe company in the first place. That shoe company, to add insult to injury, is Skechers.
One can make a fairly unassailable case that fashion itself is a form of speech. And so as a person who believes style restriction and school and workplace dress codes (especially those that discriminate against gender expression) are unnecessarily oppressive, I will defend Rep. Malliotakis’s right to wear these Dr. Seuss sneakers.
But in a robust exercise of my First Amendment right, I will also express that they are fucking ugly and that calling such a shoe a “kick,” particularly when one is from New York City, is egregious. I also find it curious that she would trot these out on a weekend in which some conservatives became upset with First Lady Jill Biden for wearing what many called “fishnets” (even though they were not fishnets if we’re getting fashionably pedantic; they were simply a lace-patterned tight, though either would have been fine). Who gets to claim what is cancel culture, and when criticism is violence? But as Professor Robin James wrote on Jezebel today, the concept of “cancel culture” as applied in 2021 is selective and meant to maintain conservative dominance. And it seems like it’s working—conservatives are certainly dominating the space of ugly ass garments, at least. It’s their right to wear hideous clothing, we must all protect it.