The whole lot within the NBA builds to the playoffs. Coaches have retooled lineups and experimented with schemes, whereas gamers have plugged holes of their video games. Stylists, too, have ready, coordinating with manufacturers and poring over on-line procuring websites to get the matches good. That’s actual: stylists and gamers save their strongest stuff for the nights they’ll be on nationwide TV. And final evening, as his Boston Celtics geared as much as tackle the Washington Wizards within the NBA’s first-ever play-in match, Kemba Walker was dialed in: a lemon-lime colour scheme flowed from head to toe, with matching green-and-yellow hat, shirt, and sneakers. One unlucky snag: Walker’s outfit was giving off some unintentionally dark signals.
On the again of his jacket was a coiled hissing snake above the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me”—also called the Gadsden flag, a Revolutionary Battle-era image that’s since been co-opted by gun-rights activists, white supremacists, and the alt-right. The flag has ties to the Ku Klux Klan and ceaselessly seems in hives of white supremacist exercise, just like the rally in Charlottesville in 2017 or the storming of the Capitol earlier this yr. Walker was probably the primary participant to ever match hyped Nike Dunks with a “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia.
Earlier than the sport, Boston’s Twitter account shot out an image of Walker within the shirt with the caption “Locked in for the Play-In.” The tweet didn’t survive lengthy as individuals identified the which means of the imagery on the again of Walker’s shirt.
The shirt isn’t right-wing merch—it’s the product of the model Vetements, which brandishes irony and cynicism like a razor-sharp weapon. The bare-bones copy for the product throughout each retailer reads, “It is crafted in Italy and options the recognizable snake print together with the Do not Tread On Me textual content beneath.” Nonetheless, anybody aware of Vetements and its founding designer Demna Gvasalia’s ethos is aware of there’s extra to this than pumping up a recognizable snake print.
As Rachel Tashjian wrote in a current assessment of a Balenciaga present, the place Gvasalia can also be the designer, “Demna Gvasalia is our modern grasp of runway discomfort.” Vetements has toyed with symbols earlier than in equally biting methods. A earlier runway present featured equally blown-up and barely tweaked logos of companies like PlayStation, Bose, and Heineken. Vetements now appears to be taking part in with the Don’t Tread On Me image in the identical manner: discovering trend buried inside unhealthy style.