Rebel Hell - London Riots or Fashion Ads?

24 Oct 2011|Cultural Insight Team

Wrangler advert (

Brands have always used the cultural code of rebellion. These recent mainstream fashion adverts – with their images of fire, broken windows, battle wounds, hoodies, clenched fists and street scenes – are almost indistinguishable from the press photographs from the London riots.

Civilians escape from burning house
Riot photograph (

But does this code still feel appropriate and aspirational? Do they capture the romance, authenticity and freedom of thwarting the establishment, or the criminal violence of mindless hooligans? Is the icon of the rebel, bravely challenging conventions and doing it his own way, now fully associated with looting, burning homes and thoughtless disregard for others? Is it tainted by association, evoking disdain rather than excitement?’

Diesel Only the Brave campaign
Diesel Only the Brave ad (

The spirit of the moment seems better captured by the pictures of volunteers with mops and buckets cleaning up their local areas. In a time of communities pulling together, anything that seems to glorify anti-social violence could seem hopelessly out of touch. The rebel’s defiance of authority doesn’t seem so glamorous when the police as are held up as brave defenders and the rebels as thugs. Is the outlaw now the enemy?

Welcome to the era of the rebel with a broom.

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