By Jon Michail
Believing in yourself and believing that your opinion matters isn’t just something you can do with words. Sometimes to be true to yourself and your convictions, you need more than just a persuasive argument. What if people just aren’t listening? In these days of social media ‘echo chambers’ where we surround ourselves with people who have the same opinion as us, how do we get across a message to those who don’t live in our little plastic bubbles?
Symbolic displays are a way to freely express yourself and let the audience know exactly what your opinion is about everything – from public policy to events and situations – without having to say a word. They are a form of protest that can be seen when a voice will not be heard.
‘F*ck Donald Trump’
When Australian Tennis Player Nick Kyrgios beat 14 time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal during an exhibition match at the Fast4 Tournament in Sydney last week, he used the opportunity to show the world how he felt about the President-Elect Donald Trump. He came out to a press conference straight afterwards, wearing a T-shirt with Donald Trump’s face depicted as a devil, with the words ‘F*ck Donald Trump’ emblazoned underneath. When reporters asked him about it, he said “It’s pretty explanatory.”
In other words, a picture said a thousand words that he didn’t have to.
The picture quickly went viral and no matter what people thought about the sentiment itself, or about Kyrgios’s views on world politics, it got people talking. It made people angry. It got people excited that someone was willing to put their views in the public arena. It invited controversy and it invited support.
T-shirts have been used as a vehicle for self expression for decades, with the rise of the protest message coming to the fore in the 1960s. (The 60s image of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara is still a popular print today, as is the 70s smiley yellow face which was given new life as the first computer emoticon).
Powerful communication matters and the social and political messages t-shirts portray can be seen in every level of society and in every situation. They’re not only comfortable and practical: a t-shirt is a walking billboard, a way to send a message without having to say anything. They can be controversial, shocking and offensive. Some messages have caused so much public outrage, they’ve put the companies who produced them into bankruptcy.
It’s important to note that no matter what you wear, you will be judged on your clothing choices, it’s your visual branding. Image is at first, a visual thing and reflects the person you think you are. It can define you and can communicate contradictory messages to what you originally may have intended. After all, a politician doesn’t generally wear tattered jeans and a crop top in public. A student doesn’t wear high couture. It’s all about being relevant.
So if every fibre of your being, inside and out, vehemently needs to express a statement, speak and dress accordingly. It’s all about congruence and the physical impact of your appearance will back up everything you have to say and more……
And of course, you might not have to say a word, at all, like the Kyrgios t-shirt.
What do you think?
Was it appropriate for Kyrgios to wear this t-shirt it to a tennis press conference?
Jon Michail and his team at Image Group International support their clients to achieve breakthrough results with new, disruptive ways to grow and monetise their personal and business brands. A veteran coach with a Who’s Who clientele, Jon is the CEO and Founder of Image Group International, an Australian-based corporate and personal brand image advisory and coaching organization that conducts transformational seminars and workshops in over four continents and is recognised as Australasia’s No. 1 Image coach.