Father of street style photography Bill Cunningham famously quipped that “The wider world perceives fashion… as a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavals and problems that are enormous. The point is, in fact, that it’s the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Two recent innovations have taken the idea of fashion as daily armor to a more literal dimension than Cunningham ever envisioned:
Hövding, an “invisible” bicycle helmet developed by two Swedish women, is actually an airbag that pops out of a pouch worn around the neck like a scarf or collar. Besides allowing cyclists to avoid the aesthetic distress of donning an unsightly helmet or ruining their hairdo, the ingenious invention “provides more than three times better shock absorption than any other helmet,” according to the Hövding website.
AR Wear is a clothing line that creates women’s shorts, underwear, and athletic bottoms with special locking mechanisms around the leg- and hip-bands to offer wearable protection against sexual assault. AR Wear is intended to create a barrier allowing its wearers to “passively resist an attacker, in addition to any other form of resistance they may be able to carry out at the time of an assault.” The idea for AR Wear (which stands for “Anti-Rape Wear”) was pitched on Indiegogo, where it has already been met with great support, surpassing its fundraising goals with time to spare.
My immediate response to the Hövding helmet was one of inspiration at the creativity of the inventors, while AR Wear mostly just took me aback. I found myself revolted by the idea that anti-rape clothing needs to exist, and uncertain about how to wrestle with the fact that no matter what AR Wear’s effectiveness might be at preventing rape, it wouldn’t be able to protect women against the emotional trauma of undergoing such an attack. There are a host of other ways in which these items are potentially problematic, especially considering the responsibility too-often placed on victims as though it were up to them to prevent rape, instead of up to the perpetrators to stop assaulting.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that protecting women from even part of the trauma of rape is a worthwhile endeavor. Either way, it’s interesting to note the kind of things modern “armor” is protecting people from as compared to its historical counterpart.
What do you think?