When out protesting, doing outreach, or lobbying, what we wear says a lot about who we are as a person, as well as protects us from the elements. It can be confusing how to dress to a protest to best get your message through, or how to ensure you’re protected from the elements if you are going to be outside for a while.
I’ll give advice and tips on what to wear in this paper so you can have the confidence to get out there, stay warm, and still be fashionable!
Dressing for a Protest
Depending on the type of protest will effect how you dress. A protest outside in the cold will be different from a protest in extreme heat. And a protest in a nice establishment obviously will be different from a march. The protest/event I see people make the worst mistakes with are outdoor, winter protests/events. So many people do not dress warmly enough, or have coats, shoes, etc. that are not the best at keeping you warm. Since frostbite is so serious, I will be discussing winter gear first.
If you bring your dog to events, I share tips for dogs in the cold or heat here.
If you will be outside for a long period in freezing temperatures, the best thing to do is get electric clothing. These are jackets, socks, and gloves that run on rechargeable batteries to create heat in wires throughout the clothing. They warm your body, feet, and hands, not only keeping you warm, but keeping blood flow normal. When you’re cold, your body restricts blood flow to your extremities, which results in fingers, toes, hands, and feet getting cold easily and quickly. This can also lead to a higher risk of frostbite. When your torso is warm, blood flow is released back to the extremities.
An electric jacket is the most important winter gear you can buy, not only for ensuring your limbs get extra blood flow, but it keeps the most important part of your body warm. With warm organs, your body can function normally, allowing you to stay in the cold longer, and do the work you need to do.
I have been using the same electric jacket for 4 years (at the time of writing), and it has been the best purchase I’ve ever made for clothing. I have been able to stay perfectly warm in single digit temperatures, in the snow, on winter hikes with my dog, and standing on a street corner with a sign for 2 hours. Even when not on it is still very warm.
The jacket I use is the Ororo Women’s Lightweight Heated Vest. The battery is fully charged in just a few hours, so charge it at night if you use it as often as I do. The charge lasts a long time. I can have it at full power for hours and feel the heat. It has several settings, allowing me to have a lot of heat, or just a little, depending on how I feel. The best part is it’s not bulky, so I can easily wear a jacket or coat over it and not even notice!
The company that made this jacket has many other electric items available for men and women, from jackets, to socks, to gloves. Even butt warmers for your car! With how well made my jacket is, and lasting so long with how often I use it, I highly recommend buying their products. It is expensive, but this is due to better wiring being used to ensure a long life.
You can visit the website here: https://www.ororowear.com/, or their Amazon shop here: https://smile.amazon.com/stores/page/1E428D65-14EC-4E05-887D-E443B5894FEF
After an electric jacket or electric coat, the second most important gear is electric socks. Your feet are at the highest risk of frostbite due to being in the snow, touching the cold ground, and not being able to be tucked into the armpits like your hands to get warmed up. Electric socks, while not producing as much heat as an electric jacket, keep your feet warm enough that you can still feel your toes!
Ororo has some amazing electric socks, but the ones I got are the Autocastle Electric Heating Socks. These have the heating wires on TOP of the sock, so no weird feeling of walking on the wires. Despite being on top, they still keep my entire foot warm. The sock is also very thick and warm by itself. The worst part is washing the sock, which must be hand washed. But if you wear very thin anklet socks, then put the electric sock on top, the anklet will soak up any sweat and foot essence, allowing the electric sock to go longer between washes.
I also put an extra fluffy sock over it to ensure maximum warm feet! The charge on these socks lasts a long time, and it’s easy to adjust the settings for extra warmth, or just a little warm. Charging is quick, and the batteries don’t slip out of their pockets.
But to have the most effect on keeping your feet warm, some good winter boots are necessary. Sneakers have holes in them as they are meant to allow your foot to breath. Don’t wear sneakers or other summer shoes in the winter as they just allow cold air in and warm air out.
The boots I use are the Dream Pairs Mid Calf Winter Boots. Not only are they vegan, but they are so warm! Dream Pairs has many nice, vegan winter boots for women: https://www.dreampairshoes.com/.
Having boots that go to the calf are best as pants can be tucked in to ensure no skin exposure. Waterproof boots are best if you are in an area that snows a lot or may need to walk through puddles.
To further keep your feet, and legs warm, you can also implement leggings or leg warmers. Leg warmers are basically like a legging, but does not go over the crotch. They tend to be thicker, as their sole purpose is for warmth, and not to be seen, as they stay under the pants. I have been using leg warmers from this Etsy shop, but you can search on Etsy for other shops. These are for both men and women, and since we all have different leg types, I suggest using an Etsy shop as you can always message the maker and ask for a custom size should you need one.
I have noticed a difference since using leg warmers, so do recommend them!
A puffer coat is always the best kind to go with (just ensure it doesn’t have down!), as they are windproof and are very thick. But I suggest getting a “tube” puffer coat as they go past your hips and often to your knees. This ensures more protection for your body against the wind, and makes it harder for heat to escape. The one I have been using for years is the U2Wear Women’s Puffer Long Wear Coat. It’s vegan (even in the description says vegan!), and it goes all the way to my calves. So my boots and the end of the coat meet meaning no part of my body is exposed!
It is difficult to run in it, but if you’re standing in one place, you obviously won’t need to be running. It’s very warm, has lots of pockets, and a warm hood!
But any nice puffer coat or jacket should keep you warm, especially when paired with boots, an electric jacket, and leg warmers!
The next thing I would suggest are electric gloves. There are many companies that make these, such as Ororo. Again, more expensive does equal better quality. Sadly, most electric gloves are very large, made for men, so if you’re a small woman like myself, you will need to just get a glove too large for you. But warm hands are warm hands!
A beanie hat or skii mask (also called a balaclava) is also vital as most body heat leaves your head. Keeping your ears warm is also paramount to reduce risk of frost bite. A skii mask is incredibly warm and will protect your face from cold wind, snow, and also prevent your nose from getting frost bite!
With all these electric articles of clothing, a nice coat, a hat, and leg warmers with some nice boots, you won’t ever freeze again during a protest, outreach event, or just a day in the cold!
Other items you can buy to stay warm are scarves, fluffy socks (Target has some amazing ones!), gaiters, body armor (the things athletes wear), and ear warmers!
While the heat of the summer, or just living in a warm climate, may not seem as big of a deal as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, there’s still risk of being out in the sun. Heatstroke, sunburning, and dehydration are always at stake when out in extreme heat for hours.
The first thing to go over when doing a protest or any event in the heat is determining if you have to wear a uniform or not. If you are doing something with an organization that is requiring you to wear a T-Shirt with their name on it, you obviously have less control of what you wear. But if you’re doing a protest or event without this uniform requirement, you may not be sure of what to wear.
Depending on the type of protest or event will also determine what you should wear. If you are standing on a street corner with a sign and chanting, you will be able to get away with more than if you’re doing a cube and engaging the public in discussions.
The most important rule to remember, is that with your clothing visible without a jacket or coat covering it, don’t wear a shirt that may have something offensive on it (cuss words, violence, sexual content, etc), as this may make someone hate you or feel uncomfortable around you, thus losing any chance of engaging that person in a meaningful conversation. You need to be approachable when trying to educate the public.
Along with this, don’t wear political shirts. While we may want to express our disdain for certain politicians, some people can be persuaded to be against animal cruelty, or certain types of cruelty, despite their political beliefs. I’ve met many Trump supporters who are plant based, hate horseracing, or despise puppymills. Don’t lose the chance of teaching them about other animal cruelties because they saw you wear an anti Trump shirt.
That being said, don’t wear clothing that may pit someone against you on a different topic. If you’re protesting fur, don’t wear something about abortion as someone who is against abortion will not feel safe engaging with you (not that abortion is vegan so why are you doing vegan events?). Or wear a shirt that might say something about sex, and you have a pearl clutcher freak out over it instead of learning about why eating meat is bad.
Clothing should be about the subject you’re protesting against, a generic vegan shirt, plain, or something no one will be angered by, such as a geek shirt (like Star Wars).
If you have visible tattoos that may say or depict something vulgar, stay on the safe side and cover them just in case they are seen. Flowers, pets, etc. are fine to be seen, but a tattoos of genitalia or certain phrases might scare off a person you’re trying to reach out to.
Clothing does not need to be formal for most types of protests or events. If you want to wear a bikini top when it’s a 100+ degrees outside, go for it. Wear your booty shorts! Just make sure your booty shorts don’t say “insert dick here” or something else that will make people avoid you. Wear your tank top, men. It’s okay.
Now, what about protective clothing? If you’re going to be in the extreme heat, and no shade, wear a sun hat! They don’t have to be ridiculous like what those rich, white people wear to horseracing. Something simple, like Lady Dimitrescu’s hat, is great at keeping the sun off your face, neck, and shoulders. I got myself this one. To stiffen it, I used a fabric stiffener.
Thin clothing to allow heat to escape, sneakers with plenty of holes for your feet to breath, and sunblock also are important to avoid heat stroke or sunburning. Stay in the shade, bring plenty of water, and keep a smaller cooler with ice if you have a long day in the heat.
Not every protest or event will be outside, or allow you to wear whatever. Some require you to be formal, whether it is a sit in, lobbying, or some other tactic to save animals. If you are doing something that requires formal wear, dress accordingly. A suit and tie, a dress or nice blouse with dress pants.
Depending on your body type and personal style, this will be different for everyone. But a good idea to have, regardless of your beliefs, is to think, “What would I wear to church?” Obviously, you wouldn’t be dressed in anything inappropriate or dirty if you were to attend a church service. The same applies to lobbying or being in some place that requires you to be dressed to impressed. You want people to think of you as a decent person, as they are more likely to listen to you than if you came in half naked or looking like you just rolled out of bed.
But while you dress nicely for these events, also be sure to be comfortable. Don’t wear shoes that are too tight, or heels that are too high, if you are going to be walking a lot. Bring a jacket, even if you don’t get cold easily. You don’t want to risk being uncomfortable as this can have an effect on your activism. If you’re thinking about your sore feet or how cold you are, you may not be as quick on your feet to answer questions, or may accidentally sound grouchy while speaking.
If you’re comfortable you can focus on just the animals and whatever issue you’re speaking about.
Bring flats if you have to walk far to your car, wear thick socks to keep your feet warm, etc. Stay comfortable, while also staying formal.
If you don’t know what is in fashion or best to wear, look up what politicians and lawyers wear. You can never go wrong with a suite and tie for men, and dress pants and blazer with a nice blouse for women. Simple jewelry, less makeup, and plain dress shoes are also something you can always trust. As you gain more confidence, and do some exploring, you can change up your style.
Formal Attire: https://emilypost.com/advice/attire-guide-dress-codes-from-casual-to-white-tie
Formal Attire for Men: https://www.fashionbeans.com/article/the-new-rules-of-formal-attire/
Formal Attire for Women: https://rtrshift.com/what-is-formal-attire/
Black Tie for Men: https://www.thetrendspotter.net/formal-dress-for-men/
Guide to Business Attire: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/guide-to-business-attire
Your Guide to Business Attire: https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/career-advice/starting-out/your-guide-different-types-business-attire
Basics on Business Attire: https://www.theforage.com/blog/basics/business-attire
What is Business Attire: https://www.placement.com/learn/what-is-business-professional-attire-and-is-it-still-a-thing
Business Attire for Women: https://www.thetrendspotter.net/business-attire-for-women/