(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 15, 2019 Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), wears a hoodie with the European flag with one missing star while giving a speech to open the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany. - The EUnify hooded sweatshirt from a Berlin-based underground label popular with young people turned into a must-have fashion accessory for many German candidates, right and left, ahead of the May 26, 2019 European elections. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)
How a hoodie became German politicians’ street cred uniform
At the annual powwow of heads of state, ministers, diplomats and generals, the sartorial Christmas present from Ischinger’s grandson got more attention than his dire warnings about the collapse of the post-World War II global order.
‘Cool love for Europe’
Since then there has been no stopping a fashion trend that may spark shrieks of delight from European Commission bureaucrats, while the label has added a T-shirt, jogging pants and a waist bag to its line.
Another early adopter was the youthful leader of the liberal, pro-business FDP party, Christian Lindner, who posted a picture of himself in an EU sweater on Instagram.
The caption included a winking smiley face and the message that “For me Europe is not only a continent, but another word for #freedom, #responsibility, diversity, openness and #tolerance”.
Then came Justice Minister Katarina Barley of the centre-left Social Democrats, who has in recent weeks been seen sporting a EUnify jumper on giant campaign posters.
Fashion historian Uta-Christiane Bergemann noted that the sweater allows pro-European candidates, whether from the right or left, “to convey a very direct and quickly understandable message”.
By wearing one, Barley “conveys a sociable and youthful impression”, Bergemann said, while also signalling that “she identifies so strongly with Europe that she will envelop herself in it”.
Some designers already dare to dream that the EU flag will become as iconic as the Stars and Stripes or the Union Jack.
“At first we were quite alone, but now there are about 20 creators in this niche, and I think that’s very good,” said Mallon, who noted that while the symbol is trendy in Berlin, it is subversive in many English cities.
Inevitably, the hoodie hype has sparked a backlash, with some critics likening it to the inflationary and empty use of the image of Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary.
“You can welcome so much cool love for Europe,” wrote one commentator in news weekly Die Zeit.
“Or you can ask whether you can really purchase a political attitude in an online shop with next-day delivery.”