Strange costumes of Capitol rioters echo the early days of the Ku Klux Klan – before the white sheets

However, after spending the last decade studying the rhetoric of organized racist groups in the United States, I know how outfits that look harmless and eccentric can actually have an insidious effect. In fact, costumes and uniforms have played a central role in the appeal of extremist groups throughout the history of the country.

For many extremist groups, a primary goal is to spread their group’s ideology to the mainstream public. In order to accomplish this, groups need to gain as much widespread recognition as they can.

Costumes and uniforms are a form of spectacle that attract attention. …

In the era of the internet, costumes and uniforms help groups construct community in a different way.

Most organized extremist groups in the United States primarily communicate in anonymous online spaces, and members are often separated geographically.

For these reasons, costumes, uniforms and symbols on clothing can act as physical indicators of group unity.

By Kenneth Ladenburg, Arizona State University

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