Friday July 07, 2017

Fred Perry chairman says he wants nothing to do with Gavin McInnes and his Proud Boys

A Proud Boy member, left, and the group's founder Gavin McInnes, right, sport black Fred Perry polo shirts, the uniform of choice for the far-right group.

A Proud Boy member, left, and the group's founder Gavin McInnes, right, sport black Fred Perry polo shirts, the uniform of choice for the far-right group. (CBC)

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The Fred Perry brand is distancing itself from a self-described "Western chauvinist" movement that has adopted the company's polo shirts, calling the Proud Boy's choice of outfits "a shame." 

"We don't support the ideals or the group that you speak of," Fred Perry chairman John Flynn said in a statement. "It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with."

The Proud Boys made headlines in Canada last week when five of its members, who have been identified as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, showed up at an Indigenous protest ceremony in Halifax on Canada Day.

The men, sporting Fred Perry black polo shirts and a Red Ensign flag, said they were upset the activists were "disrespecting" the memory of Edward Cornwallis, Halifax's founder, who established the policy of genocide against the Mi'kmaq people.

Who are the Proud Boys?2:30

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes also sported a black Fred Perry shirt in a controversial interview on CBC's Power and Politics earlier this week.

McInnes, the Canadian co-founder of Vice media, is a right-wing commentator who has come under fire for, among other things, suggesting Cornwallis was justified in offering a bounty for the scalps of Mi'kmaq peopledefending Holocaust deniers, calling for a U.S. Muslim ban and appearing to justify domestic abuse against women.

The Proud Boys say they welcome gay men and men of colour, but its Facebook page contains posts that are anti-Islam, mock people who use "they/them" pronouns, and boast about white men's contributions to technological advancements

The Fred Perry clothing company was founded in the U.K. by the triple Wimbledon champion tennis player Fred Perry in 1952. They have stores throughout the world, including in Toronto. 

Here is chairman John Flynn's statement to As It Happens in full:

"Frankly I could send you a press release but no need . A little investigation into Fred the man and Fred Perry the company would reveal a lot.

Fred was born the son of a socialist MP [and] became world tennis champion at the time when tennis was an elitist sport. He started a business with a Jewish businessman from eastern Europe.

The brand was adopted by the mod movement and systematically has been associated with a diverse group of subcultures from reggae to punk to Brit pop.

It is a shame that we have to even answer the question.

No, we don't support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with."

Before The Proud Boys, Fred Perry was associated with the fashion-forward mod culture of 1960s British youth.

It later became a symbol for skinheads, a white supremacist movement that splintered off from mod culture. 

Quadrophenia

A Fred Perry polo is sported by a character in the 1979 British film Quadrophenia, about mod culture. (The Who Films)

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, a hate group watchdog, lists Fred Perry polo shirts in its "racist skinhead glossary."

When McInnes was asked by The Outline reporter ZoĆ« Beery why Proud Boys sport the polos, he threatened to take her "to court" if she were to "associate us with Nazi skinheads or any implication like that."

"He went on to explain that he wants to align his group with the working-class toughness of the late '60s hard mods," wrote Beery.