Two rallies were held today in Toronto concerning the continuing provincial college strike. Professors marched on the Ministry of Colleges with signs and placards proclaiming their demands for smaller classrooms, fewer hours, and more money (both for themselves and for the colleges). Meanwhile, outside the provincial government buildings at Queen’s Park, students held their own demonstration during which they dramatised their anger at being treated like pawns in the ongoing dispute by wearing large chess pieces on their heads. While the issues being raised by the teachers are undoubtedly important and cannot be dismissed, I think it was the students’ rally which raised the more pertinent question: “Where the heck does one buy giant chess-hats?”
As it turns out, the biggest source of giant chess-hats is MegaChess, which claims to provide the largest collection of big chess sets, chessboards and chess-hats in the world.
Their prices are a bit steep — king and queen hats cost $49 apiece and even a lowly pawn will put you out $13 (US) — but you really can’t put a price on the pleasure of seeing people wearing giant horse heads, can you?
Of course MegaChess, as its name implies, is not merely about gigantic chess fashion; its mandate concerns chess in any of its gargantuan forms including fiberglass, plastic, plaster, foam and even balloons (not recommended for windy days).
The real issue, however, is not the chess-hats themselves, but rather the use to which the Toronto college students put them, and whether or not other unusual fashion accessories could be similarly employed in political protest.
Naturally your first thought, like my own, is probably: “Clown shoes!” Their very nature makes them tailor-made for expressing certain kinds of civic discontent. Jolly Walkers, for instance, offers several styles of Jester shoes which couldn’t help but send the right message at any rally decrying political buffoonery, while for protests against increased taxes or decreased budgets, the Fancy Dress Costume Shop has a pair of raggedy oversized clown shoes complete with oversized toes sticking out through the front.
Meanwhile, with mad cow disease and the bird flu making the rounds, what better way to protest government action or inaction than by wearing hats made of meat? Unlike chess-hats or clown shoes, these can be made at home using little more than a pound of ground beef. Instructions are available from Hats of Meat.
Ultimately, of course, the most versatile, and relevant accessory is a white bandana. The purity of the protest is represented by its colour, the simplicity of the protest is represented by its plainness, and the futility of the protest is represented by tying it on a stick and waving it.