Streetwear often pulls from pop culture and current events to create cashflow by selling products customers easily identify with. But when Rocawear attempted to make a quick buck by releasing “Occupy All Streets” tees, the 99% yelled back in disagreement after finding out the company had no immediate plans to donate any of the proceeds.
“The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.” [Business Insider]
Backlash brewing, the company quickly decided to pull the shirts but not before receiving a terse, biting response from one of the movement’s reported leaders.
“Before the t-shirts were pulled … TMZ spoke with Grim, one of the leaders of the Occupy movement, who told us, ‘Jay-Z, as talented as he is, has the political sensibility of a hood rat and is a scrotum. To attempt to profit off of the first important social moment of 50 years with an overpriced piece of cotton is an insult to the fight for economic civil rights known as #occupywallstreet.'” [TMZ]
Not to say Jay and Rocawear’s shirts were a bad idea in thought and spirit. In ways, I agree with Global Grind EIC Michael Skolnik who points out that the shirts do help spread awareness in a community that may/may not be fully involved in the latest social movement. We identify with Hov on many levels – musically, culturally, etc. – but not financially, as said previously in Whitt’s “Rich N*gga Rheotric” article. Jay may have originated in the 99% but he currently resides in the 1%. Peddling a themed shirt like this one is a hard sale when Rocawear expressed no plans to share the wealth and the company’s face has a net worth more than $450 million.
Instead of relying on retail to show his support, Jay may have had more success in showing solidarity by using two of his more powerful tools: his voice and presence. Let’s face it, who the hell wears Rocawear anyways?