The sight of a Confederate flag is a shocking and grotesque experience for many, although in certain parts of the southern United States it is an emblematic feature of the backwater ambience.
The battle flag of the Confederate States of America is viewed with scorn by the average freedom-loving American with a dental plan and distaste for ill-bred irrationality — and the flag has seen an unprecedented wave of political backlash following the June 17 mass shooting that killed nine people in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in what officials have deemed a racially-driven hate crime.
It’s safe to say, though, that the last place one might expect to find the “Stars and Bars” is plastered across the tank tops of fashionable adolescent girls a good 5,000 miles away from the nearest KKK meeting, in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Yet that same flag has somehow become a fashion statement hustled upon middle-class Argentine youth by Cook, a trendy Argentine clothing line. The brand can be likened to U.S. clothing companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch or Aeropostale, and it pushes that same ragged, unwashed aesthetic at egregious prices.
According to the brand’s official Facebook page, the company, which was founded in 1975, “provides a modern, young, free, and effortless style, which always remains loyal to its promise of quality.”
Ironically, given the negative ideals and sentiments traditionally associated with the Confederate flag, the company’s slogan is the optimistic “Live in Love,” and they sell accessories such as the “Tote Winter Love.” The Facebook page even posted a photo with the phrase “#LoveWins” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling in favor of marriage equality.
A quick surf around the Cook site is highly recommended in order to better grasp the bizarrely humorous-mixed-with-offensive nature of this Argentine fashion oddity.
Cook has several stores throughout Buenos Aires, meaning that at nearly every major mall throughout the city, shoppers are bound to encounter a casual Confederate battle flag offering a strange greeting as they enter the store.
Cook is one of two popular local clothing brands owned by Argentine company Big Bloom SA. Although it briefly changed hands in 1998, following a sale to an investment fund called Argentine Venture Partners (AVP), the company has remained true to its “spirit” as a brand catering to a young demographic.
“Nothing to do with racism”
For the most part, Argentine customers appeared to be clueless as to the meaning of the Cook logo, and many were taken aback to find out that the little flag sewn on the popular apparel line is actually an incredibly controversial symbol in the United States.
“Wanama has always been a favorite of mine, and Cook has been around a long time. I literally had no idea that the logo is what it is,” confessed one young woman.
“It’s rather shocking,” she added.
When questioned about the origin of the flag strewn about the Cook store in the Abasto shopping center in Buenos Aires, a store employee of the store did acknowledge the history of the logo.
“The flag is from the Confederacy of the United States. There are some people who consider the flag discriminatory or racist, but it has nothing to do with that here,” she insisted.
“The owner chose the flag, really, just because he liked it.”
Another employee explained, “The owner lives here, and on a tour in the United States while in the Navy, he saw the flag and liked it and decided to use it as the logo for the company.”
The store was covered with pictures of boats and navy memorabilia, which corroborated the sales representative’s story about the owner’s Navy days.
The general vibe of the place and the style of the clothes made sense within the context of the military story. However, what still did not make sense were the cotton T’s with the words “Rebel by Choice, Las Angeles” scrawled on the front above what seemed to be the yellow Walmart rollback head, wearing what else but a Confederate flag bandanna.