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SOCIETY The Rise of America's Bulletproof Fashion Industry

Published 28 DEC 2017 11:23AM

Words by Skyler Hust

“THIS T-SHIRT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE” reads the layover text on an image of a model in a $2,388 tank-top on the front page of Miguel Caballero’s bulletproof fashion website.

This gun-resistant clothing company has existed for 22 years, but only this year has Caballero expanded his market to the U.S., opening a distribution center in Miami, reminding us yet again that marketing is all about perfect timing.

An August report from Market Research states that in the United States, body armour manufacturing is on average a $465 million-per-annum industry, expected to increase to $5.7 billion by 2024 .

Miguel Caballero created his first bulletproof jacket as a graduation project in 1992 at Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia when the country was brooding with gun violence. In 1993 the club “I was shot by Miguel Caballero” was born, where almost 230 people have since volunteered to test his bulletproof garments, making him a Latin celebrity.

Among these members are David Blaine and Caballero’s own wife, Carolina Ballestero. One of the two times Ballestero served as a test dummy for her husband and was caught on film in the Miami Herald office as a product demonstration. After being shot by her husband, Ballesteros turns to the camera and shows off the used bullet while making a sales pitch.

Most of Caballero’s sales are tailored to male government employees, but as of recent, his U.S. audience has begun to expand. Caballero gives the example of “an older lady who called for a bullet-resistant sweatshirt because she did not feel comfortable going to the grocery store.”.

Caballero is not the only one redefining the term “fashion police.” New England resident, Joe Curran, also created a bulletproof retail company in response to the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which inspired him to make a move to protect his two school-aged children by creating bulletproof backpacks. Since then, he has developed other bulletproof clothing pieces, such as the NIJ IIIA Bulletproof Farm Coat ($940) and the NIJ IIIA Bulletproof Youth Nylon Jacket ($670).

Unfortunately, both of these websites have very few options for women as well as anyone making less than three figures, clearly limiting safety provision to both male and upper-class citizens.

But even if everyone could afford and fit into an Italian leather bulletproof jacket,
is this industry the solution to gun violence? Or will this perpetuate the problem by normalizing it?

Miguel Caballero stated that at least half of his customers are gun owners, implying a correlation with those who buy bulletproof menswear and own guns.

Thus, we continue to straddle the tension between uprooting the source of the problem and working within the reality of the problem. Is bulletproof fashion a step in the right direction in combating gun violence? Does creating a bulletproof coat normalize gun violence and give too much power to fear? Is it possible to find another way in which we can feel safe on a trip to the grocery store?



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