Gavin McInnes is a once hipster-adjacent man who’s moved further and further towards the fringe: the Vice co-founder is now the head bigshit in charge of the Proud Boys, a far-right, pro-“Western values” men’s organization. Its nationalistic overtones are not lost on the Fred Perry clothing brand, whose shirts the Proud Boys are now rocking. Fred Perry Chairman John Flynn told CBC it’s “a shame” to see their shirts on the backs of these dudes, adding, “We don’t support the ideals or the group that you speak of.”
McInnes is, of course, the Vice co-founder who’s no longer associated with the company, and who left an ad agency job following an astonishingly transphobic essay he penned in 2014. These days he’s a host on a Canadian far-right outlet called The Rebel, where he and some other fellows recently made a video originally entitled “Ten Things I Hate About the Jews.” McInnes claims the video was satire, and changed the title following a very predictable amount of backlash. (McInnes’ Twitter bio says that he is against both Nazis and feminism.)
McInnes has also gotten into some social organizing, founding the Proud Boys, who describe themselves as a “pro-Western fraternal organization” that supports “minimal government, maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt.” We’re legally obligated to let you know that McInnes does not consider them to be racist or white supremacist and will threaten a lawsuit if you suggest otherwise. He did that with reporter Zoë Beery at The Outline, telling her, “If you associate us with Nazi skinheads or any implication like that I will take you to court.” Anti-fascist demonstrators fought with Proud Boys in February outside a speech McInnes gave at NYU. One of the Proud Boys was also arrested for grabbing and shoving a DNAInfo reporter, an assault I witnessed.
The Proud Boys have recently taken to wearing Fred Perry polo shirts, a style that came to be associated in the ’60s and ’70s with neo-Nazi skinheads. The brand has long tried to distance itself from its more racist wearers, a task the Proud Boys are making more difficult. On Canada Day, a group of Canadian Proud Boys in black-and-yellow Fred Perry polos disrupted a demonstration and ceremony by Indigenous activists. They were all, as it turns out, also members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and now face expulsion for their extracurricular activities. In a statement to Newsweek, some of the special little dudes involved threatened a lawsuit again, describing themselves as “a multi-racial, inclusive fraternal organization” and calling the media “fake news” and liars. They closed with, “If you refer to us as racists, we will not hesitate in considering legal action.”
McInnes also recently wore a Fred Perry shirt for a CBC interview, a real barn-burner in which he defended a bounty being placed on the scalps of Mi’kmaq in the 1700s.
The program, Power & Politics, later apologized for the interview and for not adequately describing McInnes’ previous inflammatory statements or having a First Nations person on the show to respond or add context to some of his factually inaccurate statements.
The point of wearing the Fred Perry shirts seems to be hard to miss, and indeed, Fred Perry has not missed it. In response, the company’s chairman Flynn told CBC on Friday that they really don’t want to be associated with these fucking guys, to paraphrase. He added that the Proud Boys are “counter to our beliefs and the people we work with.”
Jezebel contacted McInnes for comment, to ask both what he thinks about Fred Perry disavowing him and whether he would characterize the Proud Boys as a nationalist organization. He responded:
We couldn’t care less what the CEO of the company who makes our shirts thinks, should we?
I have no problem with “nationalist.” Just don’t put white anywhere near it or I’ll sue you. We are a men’s club with all races, religions, and sexual preferences contained in our ranks.
In a followup email, McInnes insisted that there was nothing hateful about the Canadian Proud Boys disrupting the event, calling it patriotic.
This whole thing started because 5 servicemen in Fred Perrys dared to question a rally putting “Fuck CANADA” stickers all over a statue of the city’s founder and carrying an upside down, defaced Canada flag (on Canada Day). It didn’t look anything like a religious ceremony but protestors said it was and now these guys are being ousted from the navy / army. There’s nothing racial about it because there were an equal # of natives on both sides (2 ea). But yeah, let’s focus on the guy who works at the company who made their shirts.
So there that is.