Finding meaning behind Maria Borges ‘Sweet Combat’

Military apparel is in every store. It’s in Urban Outfitters, and so it’s ubiquitous. Moreover, many icons like Beyoncé have made it popular, and mainstream military fashion is, if I admit, kinda badass. Yet, it also carries a weight of historical appropriation I hadn’t considered or cared about, until now.

Maria Borges ‘Sweet Combat’ for Harper’s Bazaar Germany (Feb 16′)

Below are editorial images of beautiful Angolan model Maria Borges posing for Harper’s Bazaar Germany last month (February 2016). Directed and shot by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello, there’s something striking about the imagery. It’s obviously beautiful – aesthetically. The juxtaposition between the red and opposing greens indicate that this is designed to be intentionally striking, and yet, this is not what struck me. 

I couldn’t help but ask ‘what is the meaning or inspiration behind casting an Angolan model in military fashion for Harper’s Bazaar Germany?‘. I searched the internet for clues and found nothing.

The little I do know is that Germany occupied Angola exactly 100 years ago to this day (March, 1916), until they were booted out by the Portuguese. Although I have no knowledge of the intent behind the shoot, it’s worth taking into consideration.

As mainstream as military fashion is, it’s not always been – shall we say – easy, for black people to wear it for fashion freely. For instance, back in the day, Jimi Hendrix (who we know and love) although having spent time in the US army where he trained as a paratrooper. On various occasions he was antagonised by British Police whilst wearing a jacket from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Depicted below in his biographical film played by Andre 3000 (who I really know and love). 

This is not a lesson in history, it’s just me attempting to express the extent fashion and the military have a long and complicated history. A history that reaches back long before Hugo Boss was sketching uniforms for the Nazis.

On the bright side, it’s 2016, and today, I’m more frustrated by my iPhone storage than historical appropriation. I would also work on the assumption that the majority of snap chatting civilians like myself wear military very innocently, and for non-military purposes. So conclude this non-conclusive blog post, yes, the editorial shoot is stunning and yes, I like the clothes in the above editorial.

I just wonder whether there is more to it? Or whether it is, simply, just a beautiful woman wearing beautiful clothes.