The Controversy of Von Dutch That You Should Know
BY SOPHIA TRIMBLE
Can we look past the scandal and separate the art from the artist?
6 OCT - 2021
To Wear or Not to Wear?
Seen on the heads of alty kids everywhere, the iconic Von Dutch trucker hat was a wardrobe staple in the early 2000s, and is slowly but surely coming back into fashion this year.
Von Dutch is claimed to be founded by Ed Boswell, who then sold trademark rights to Bobby Vaughn and Michael Cassell. Von Dutch rose to widespread popularity in the year 2000 and is synonymous with Y2K fashion, which is why we are now seeing a resurgence of the brand today. Von Dutch don’t just stop at trucker hats though, they have a wide range of clothing and accessories such as t-shirts, tank tops, pants, jackets, wallets, and the other archetypal Von Dutch pieces, their hand held bags.
Paris Hilton, icon of the early 2000s, could almost take credit for elevating the brand, as she wore Von Dutch like a uniform back in the day. Along with Juicy Couture, Von Dutch is intrinsically Paris Hilton, you can’t think of one without thinking of the other. Some other celebrities that were seen sporting Von Dutch goods at the start of the previous decade include, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Ashton Kutcher, Pamela Anderson, and many more. Von Dutch has been seen more recently on Lil Nas X, Megan Thee Stallion, Emma Chamberlain, and Kylie Jenner. There is just something so camp and so cute about Von Dutch pieces.
However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine with Von Dutch. Enormous scandal broke news in 2009, after a letter written by Kenny Howard, who Von Dutch was named after, was released on his deathbed in 1992, declaring himself as racist and a Nazi. It was also thought that Von Dutch had plausible money-laundering intent and did business with some dodgy people who had connections to drug cartels. Founder, Bobby Vaughn of Von Dutch was also charged with first-degree murder in 2005 after getting into a drunken fight with a friend.
Is this a case of separating the art from the artist? You hear that phrase thrown around a lot, but is it something that can actually be done?
Is this a case of separating the art from the artist? You hear that phrase thrown around a lot, but is it something that can actually be done? I’ll hold my hands up high and admit this, I still enjoy a bit of Chris Brown’s music from time to time, even though he is a known abuser and has a very violent history. Guilty. I (maybe selfishly) choose to separate the art from the artist with that one. Although sometimes I do remember all the awful things he’s done and skip the song halfway through, at the end of the day, streaming ‘Look At Me Now’ is still adding stacks to Chris Brown’s bank account. Therefore, it’s only really possible to separate the art from the artist figuratively.
So what makes Von Dutch any different? Should Von Dutch stay cancelled?
Since its scandal, Von Dutch has released a statement of equality, declaring, “Our team at Von Dutch stands with the movement to make change and to bring balance in racial justice across the United States and around the world. We must remain unwavering in our responsibility to overcome our societal challenges in racism, bigotry and inequality towards outcomes that motivate action.”
There was a time when I was in the dark about the goings on of Von Dutch, and was completely enthralled with the brand - ignorance is bliss afterall. These days, knowing what the brand stands for, I try to avoid Von Dutch all together, and will only buy it second-hand, that way I can be sure I’m not putting my money straight into the wallets of racists.
I cannot give you your answer to this polarising question - it is something you have to decide on your own. Now that you have a bit of background information about the Von Dutch controversy only you can make the decision of whether or not you want to wear the brand. Everybody has their own ethical and moral compass. Maybe you will find forgiveness for Von Dutch after reading their full statement of equality, maybe you are someone who can detach the clothing from the people behind them, or maybe you will avoid Von Dutch altogether. Just remember, nobody can control what you wear or don’t wear, and you are not obligated to do anything.