Vice President Harris’ casual Converse look truly en Vogue

Nevya Patel

Vice President Kamala Harris stands in front of salmon pink and apple green drapes, paying homage to her former sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, while wearing a smile reflecting her victory.

With her simple outfit, which consists of a black blazer, a pair of jeans and her Converse Chuck Taylors, the drapes symbolize her background and a part of her past that led her to make history. They remain a shadow, following her through every step of her journey, even for a magazine photoshoot.

Her pose radiates her confidence regardless of how extravagant or modest her clothes may be as she folds her hands and flashes a glowing smile  — a smile reassuring the American people that the U.S. will be in good hands with her aiding President Joe Biden in leading the country.

However, Vogue’s February 2021 issue cover attracted criticism online debating whether the cover served as an act of racism toward the first African-American South-Asian vice president. The reason behind these disagreements showed a connection to Harris’ outfit choice and overall execution of the cover. 

Despite multiple arguments that Vogue’s print magazine cover of Harris disrespects both her and fellow African Americans, the cover signifies the impact her former sorority had on her life while reflecting her affable image and a victory to the U.S. Black population.

Vogue faced criticism on Twitter for disrespecting the vice president with a cover that seemed to lack effort and thought. In reality, the utilization of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s official colors symbolizes both Harris’ background and an important aspect of her life that helped lead to her success.

“We weren’t just told we had the capacity to be great; we were challenged to live up to that potential,” said Harris in the Vogue article, referring to her sorority. “There was an expectation that we would cultivate and use our talents to take on roles in leadership and have an impact on other people, in our country and maybe even the world.”

And she did indeed take on a role of leadership — one that influences an entire country.

While some Twitter users claim the execution appears below Vogue’s usual standards, the concept of the drapes does not solely function as a background for a magazine cover; it serves as a reminder for the world that Harris knows where her success lies. Instead of choosing a background to attract attention, Vogue chose drapes that represented a piece of who she is.

The pic itself isn’t terrible as a pic. It’s just far, far below the standards of Vogue. They didn’t put thought into it. Like homework finished the morning it’s due,” said LGBTQ activist Charlotte Clymer in a tweet, according to an article from The Guardian.

Harris respects her past and acknowledges that her sorority communicates the importance of her racial heritage. 

The salmon pink drape hangs in the center foreground and glides onto the floor, creating a pleasant illusion of a soft cloud from the delicate folds and wrinkles, causing some critics to condemn Vogue for the messy setup. However, the overall image depicts a graceful reflection of the vice president.

In addition to the controversy regarding the cover’s background, the public criticized the lighting in the cover picture, claiming that it acted as a whitewashing attempt to lighten Harris’ skin tone. In reality, it directs the attention to Harris.

Her smile appears as wide as always, reflecting her happiness as she represents an over looked group of people and inspires young women around the world.”

While the lighting may be different from past issues, Harris does not blend in — she stands out. Her figure forms a bold silhouette against the pastel background, captivating the audience’s attention to her.

But no matter the setting or lighting, Harris matters the most in the picture. Her smile appears as wide as always, reflecting her happiness as she represents an over looked group of people and inspires young women around the world.

Another argument that surfaced targeted her outfit choice, particularly drawing attention to her iconic Converse Chuck Taylors, but this re-establishes her approachable personality.

“The team at Vogue loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris’ authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration,” said an unnamed Vogue representative in a L.A. Times article.

Her casual blazer, pants, and Converse — shoes that many teenagers and adults wear in their day-to-day life — combined with her smile remind the people of the U.S. that before serving as the future vice president, she is a human, just like the rest of the country’s residents.

Vogue’s photographer for the cover, Tyler Mitchell, faced criticism for his photos, which sparked disputes on whether the cover represented an intentional act of racism on Vogue’s and its editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour’s, part.

“What a mess up,” said New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali, according to The Guardian article previously mentioned. “[Wintour] must really not have Black friends and colleagues. I’ll shoot shots of VP Kamala Harris for free during my Samsung and I’m 100% confident it’ll turn out better than this [Vogue] cover.”

The article also said that Wintour has been accused of racism for previous covers on people of color, such as the August 2020 edition on gymnast Simone Biles.

I hate the toning, I hate how predictable they are … and I super-hate that Vogue couldn’t be bothered to hire a black photographer,” said Morrigan McCarthy, a past national picture editor at The New York Times, in a July 9, 2020 tweet.

The cover does not constitute a racist action, especially considering that Mitchell works as the first and only Black photographer for Vogue.  However, for those claiming that the photographer disrespected the vice president, the fact remains that a Black photographer would not discriminate against Harris, who shares his racial ethnicity.

As the vice president, Harris deserves respect for her accomplishments. 

Harris’ historic victory symbolizes a tremendous milestone for the Black community, which has been shunned and disrespected constantly by the media and people in their daily lives. Their people have been discriminated against since the founding of this country, and it is not likely that Mitchell would publicly ridicule someone whose history is similar to his.

Although her outfit could indeed have been more extravagant, considering it may have been plain compared to other covers — ultimately, this was her choice.

If Harris felt that her setting and clothing did not do justice, she has the power to object as both the vice president for the next four years and a grown woman with the ability to speak up when something seems out of place.

However, according to a Jan. 19 CNN article, Vogue decided to release a limited number of special edition print issues with the alternative, online edition cover featuring Harris in a Michael Kors suit against a gold background.

In the previously mentioned article from The Guardian, an anonymous source from Harris’ team revealed that they believed that Harris wanted the cover to portray her in a light blue Michael Kors pantsuit, but Vogue’s latest decision seems unnecessary.

The original print cover remains a proper choice on Vogue’s part despite many complaints. Harris chose to wear Chuck Taylors, jeans and a blazer. She cast her decision and simultaneously made a statement.

Harris maintained her approachable persona and reiterated that she is not here to diminish the people of America. She stands as a vice president who appreciates her history and respects it.

When her inauguration took place on Jan. 20, she officially made her place in history, leading America in her blazer, pants and Converse Chuck Taylors, reminding the people of this country that they voted for the right woman.

For Harris’ future magazine shoots, Vogue set the standard for the effort and consideration put forth into the final product. The cover told a story — a story signifying an important aspect in the vice president’s journey.

She will create more stories for magazines to capture and go beyond expectations as she did when she won the vice-presidency.