More timely than ever in the wake of their nation’s worst mass shooting, this week's episode of States of Undress takes host Hailey Gates to Ohio for a gun-themed fashion show. It’s possibly the most American thing you can imagine, which doesn’t make it any less bewildering to an outside observer.
The cold open sees her watching an old lady fire a Glock in the snow, alongside her Remington Bucket O’ Bullets. From there, we see some footage from the Second Annual Concealed Carry fashion show, where models stride down the runway before producing a firearm from the handbag, vest or jacket they’re spruiking – to showcase its efficiency at hiding one’s weapon as well as looking chic.
In 2014, we learn, the average female conceal-carry gun purchaser spent an additional $400 on accessories to accompany her purchase, which means there’s a huge market for arms-based fashion. It’s a far cry from the industry’s first attempts to court women, where the strategy was “shrink it and pink it” when it came to guns. Today, there are bespoke companies like Nickel and Lace, who tailor concealed holsters and related garments to fit the female anatomy.
Obviously, guns are a political issue in America in a way they aren’t elsewhere – a deeply divisive issue based in personal liberty, security and tradition. The Second Amendment is an almost religious passage to sections of their population, and that’s reflected in the counter-intuitive fact that gun sales spike following a mass shooting. It’s an embedded philosophy among NRA acolytes that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Or, as we’re focusing on here, a good gal with a gun. In the wake of last year’s election campaign, there was a sharp rise in gun ownership among minorities, who felt more marginalised and less safe due to Trump’s rhetoric (and the subsequent freedom of his followers to sling racial slurs). States of Undress notes that black women in particular have been buying more concealable firearms - a potential problem given the sometimes contentious relationship between the police and the African-American community.
Still, where some people see tragedy in this literal arms race, others see opportunity – not just to make a dollar from the growing numbers of women buying guns, but also to ensure their ideology gets heard. This concealed-carry fashion show is sponsored by REALIZE Firearms Awareness Coalition, an organisation whose self-described mission is “to educate citizens as to the historical intent of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, to enable citizens to accurately relate and defend aspects of the US Constitution, to enhance public awareness and support for responsible gun ownership, and to emphasise firearms education for women who facilitate the transmittal of constitutional awareness and gun ownership to succeeding generations.”
Watch the American episode of States of Undress season 2 on Thursday 12 October at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND. Missed the previous episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand: