With Prime Day—everyone’s favorite nightmare of a fake holiday—postponed due to, you know, everything, Amazon is launching its first-ever Big Style Sale (“Amazon Big Style Sale 2020!”). To quench America’s thirst for a little summertime deal-hunting, this weeklong event will feature massive discounts on tens of thousands of clothing items, accessories, and shoes from across its unwieldy style section. To help you make the most of this mildly overwhelming event, GQ’s staff has spent hours scrolling through endless pages of sweats, sneakers, jeans, dress shirts, and more to uncover all the biggest and best steals available. Consider this your Amazon Big Style Sale 2020 roadmap: all week long, we’ll be keeping it updated in real time with fresh deals and limited-time offers right at the top as they drop. Check back in early and often.
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Brittany Howard has never let the world dictate her fate. In her still-young career, her musical outpouring has been relentless: she’s formed three bands (Alabama Shakes, Thunderbitch, and Bermuda Triangle), released four albums (two with the Shakes, one with Thunderbitch, and a recent solo record, Jaime), and worked herself into a dizzy, dripping fever on countless stages. Each successive project has marked a step in a new direction, but none more so than, Jaime, her first nakedly autobiographical album.
Though Howard’s prior music had been personal to varying degrees, Jaime was the sort of work that only she could make, and that she could only make alone. Named after her sister who died of cancer as a teenager, it faced head-on the traumas and hurdles in Howard’s own life—namely, growing up poor, biracial, and closeted in Athens, Alabama. On the album’s most haunting track, “Goat Head,” she sang about an incident in which a stranger “slashed my dad’s tires and put a goat head in the back” of his truck. Elsewhere, the album is a warning (“History Repeats”), an activist invocation (“Now what stands in the way? / (All of us) / Now what you gon’ do ’bout it? / (Get up, get up)”), and a powerful declaration of same-sex love (“Georgia”). “For a while I was really into writing love songs because I’m a Libra and I love love,” Howard says. “But as I got older, I realized that there’s just so much more about my life that I should be singing about.”
Jaime was widelylaudedbycritics; the Recording Academy nominated Howard for eleven Grammys (of which she won four); and last fall Brittany Howard the Solo Act embarked on a big, auditorium-packing U.S. tour. After a few months on the road, Howard and her band were in a groove, and the way crowds were responding to her story was “extremely validating”; “it meant everything to me,” she says. For example: “This one woman in her 50s, biracial, with a white mother and black father, comes up to me and tells me, ‘Thank you for writing ‘Goat Head’ and talking about how different it is to have parents of two different colors. Because you’re either Black or white in this society. So thank you for describing how it’s different for us too.’”
But with the arrival of COVID, the tour came to an abrupt halt in March, and Howard hunkered down with her wife and Bermuda Triangle bandmate Jesse Lafser at their home in Nashville. Without access to a full band, she’s been working on making her solo songs truly solo. “I’ve been re-learning all the parts to my songs, performing them on a live looper, re-performing keyboard parts. Really, I’ve been remixing my songs so I might be able to perform them online. It’s been expanding my mind.”
Last night, giving his victory speech at an election night event, New York Democratic congressional primary winner Jamaal Bowman looked every bit the part of the progressive. He stood behind the podium in a sharp navy blue suit worn with a light blue button-up. There wasn’t a tie in sight and the top button on Bowman’s shirt was undone. This was a man ready to do some work, the outfit said. But the most vibrant sartorial symbol of the night came when Bowman stepped down from the podium to meet with his supporters and covered his face with a mask printed with the Wu-Tang Clan’s “W” emblem. Certainly one way to protect ya neck.
In the span of a few months, the mask has become the most divisive piece of clothing of our times. 70% of Democrats report regularly wearing a mask versus only 37% of Republicans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Members of congress have begged President Trump to wear one. “IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, @realDonaldTrump,” Eric Swalwell, a California representative wrote on Twitter. “Get over yourself, at least pretend to be a leader, try to save some American lives, and wear the damn mask.” Only 48% of Republicans agree Donald Trump should follow Swalwell’s instructions, according to the KFF survey. This year, politicians relying on clothes to do the work for them have mostly found that strategy to be completely ineffectual. But smart politicians like Bowman or experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci are showing the many ways a mask can be deployed in their favor. Elsewhere, figures like Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro are feeling the heat for not using a face mask.
Wearing any mask is already a political statement: one that implies care for others. (It also immediately positions the wearer as a counterpoint to history’s greatest ultracrepidarian in Trump.) But more than that, Bowman used his mask to express more than he would have been able to without it. Wearing Wu-Tang Clan merch in the form of a T-shirt or hoodie would have been, let’s say, out of step with the traditional politician’s wardrobe. With a mask, Bowman is able to don a suit as well as express his love for legendary ‘90s hip-hop crews—in the process separating himself from stodgy incumbent opposition Eliot Engel, most often seen wearing a plain blue surgical mask or white KN95. .
In the right hands, or, err, on the right face, the mask can carry a potent political message. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be as obvious as Hillary Clinton’s “VOTE” mask. Yesterday, while testifying in front of Congress as part of the Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci changed from a plain black mask to one emblazoned with the Washington Nationals logo. The idea was to introduce a bit of levity during a round of hearings that touched on surging cases and Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. slow down testing. “I’m an avid Washington Nationals fan so I thought I would break up this a little bit by putting on my Washington Nationals face mask,” Fauci said.
I think it’s also about having folks in your circle who will call you on your BS. That is so real. So I have a very powerful circle of Black trans women that I lean on, that I get advice from. They have called me and been like, “Girl, it’s hard, when someone like you has such a platform and all of these different things, it does feel like, because of how tokenism works in our society, the spotlight that goes onto you, and the visibility that goes on to you, we don’t often get that far.” Ever since I’ve had those real conversations, I think, really, it was probably two or three years ago, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about sharing the mic, before it was an Instagram campaign. I want to make sure that my work is in the service of elevating other Black trans folks in our community. So, for me, it’s about being hyper aware. Am I doing this because I really think it can be in the service of the work? Or am I doing this because I want to be seen, or be heard? And luckily, I feel like I have the kind of conscience that wouldn’t make the latter less likely.
I wanted to talk to you about media as well. I mean, we are doing this conversation for GQ, which is a part of Condé Nast and… you know. [laughs] There have been times, and frankly, this is one of them, where I feel like for whatever progress has been made in terms of representation, in terms of newsrooms and mastheads, it’s often set back by layoffs or just the systemic bias that always keeps these new newsrooms looking the way they look. How has your perception of media changed, let’s say, in the last four years? In the last four years?
So, since last Wednesday? [laughs] Okay, exactly, time: who is she? [chuckles] My outlook on media has definitely shifted. I think the reckoning that needs to happen in media is around this idea that only certain people can tell stories, or only certain people are skilled enough to, or have the education to, the experience to. I think a lot of times that’s BS. I think, as an organizer as well, it’s like, part of our job in media should be getting this tool in the most hands possible. And really democratizing it in that way, so that the person from Augusta, Georgia, where I’m from, doesn’t necessarily have to move all the way to New York to be heard. We’ve got to break down this hierarchy in media around who can make certain decisions, who can be at the top of a masthead, who can produce what. Because if we keep going at the same rate that we’re going, it’s always going to be the person probably with the most amount of privilege.
Also, I think about the ways that we as Black people only have so many outlets. We don’t really have a progressive Black outlet. I think about the harm that happens when we allow people who are black to profess to be on the cutting edge, when they really aren’t. Sorry, The Breakfast Club is really not on the fucking cutting edge. They actually inflict a lot of harm on communities from their ignorance, right? I think about the fact that a lot of the mainstream Black publications don’t necessarily have a major black LGBTQ+ presence.
The idea of “objectivity” in reporting is overdue for a reckoning too. A few years ago, I got in a really heated argument with a veteran Black journalist who primarily writes about race and racism for a prestigious magazine. A Black trans woman had been murdered and we were talking about how the case was being reported. He said that it was “activist journalism” to not use trans people’s dead names in reporting. It felt like he was saying “oh, you’re not objective enough.” His idea of “serious journalism” seemed to require disrespecting her identity and dignity. Let’s be clear, and I say this as someone who went to a journalism school, and studied journalism: As Audre Lorde was telling us, we can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. Anybody in journalism today that does not have a critical lens around what they consider to be journalistic tools, are not interrogating white supremacy, not interrogating classism, elitism, privilege. That is where we literally got these tools like “objectivity” from. How is that stripping of your humanity, just to serve a role in the service of that vision, any different than what police officers are doing? Any different than what an ICE agent is doing? Any different, really, [from] a lot of these things that we just feel are there ubiquitous in our society, that we just assess to be the norm?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.