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Photo by James Bunoan "One thing my dad taught me: don't mix religion, politics and business. It always gets you in trouble," says Edward Dada, owner of Fullerton's rock & roll T-shirt and board short company Dragonfly Clothing, which Dada says raked in $25 million last year.
So why is Eddie Dada making clothes that look like Nazi uniforms? Dragonfly's Militant Series collection features shirts such as the Desert Fox, a khaki shirt with a red armband on the left sleeve. Hitler's tailors would have only needed to add the swastika where Dada put a skull and the Dragonfly logo.
Dada is full of juicy choices for Hitler-lovers. There's the Panzerwaffe shirt, basically the Desert Fox without the armband. There's the Totenkopf, a black jacket reminiscent of the coats the SS wore while terrorizing Jews, gays, Gypsies, Catholics and intellectuals. Dada claims to have no politics, and apparently it's news to him that fascism ain't pretty. When he tried to peddle the Nazi-inspired clothes to department stores one year ago, every buyer gave him the big thumbs-down.
But Dada says he's misunderstood. "They're not SS jackets because we didn't put the swastika on them," Dada averred. "I don't want people to think Dragonfly is pro-socialism, communism or Nazism."
We can see why people might get confused about these non-Nazi clothes: Desert Fox was the nickname for Erwin Rommel, Hitler's main man in Africa. Totenkopf means death's heads. And the Panzerwaffe? They were Hitler's tanks.
"We got a lot of slack from it," Dada said. "Buyers said the clothes went too far." According to Dragonfly's brand manager, Vince Gonzales, the Militant Series is being phased out to make room for the company's new fall collection of long-sleeved shirts with embroidered designs or silk screens of music legends such as Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. Also highly anticipated is Dragonfly's Scarface mini-collection, which bears silk screens of Al Pacino as Cuban-immigrant crimelord Tony Montana. The 1983 movie is popular in hip-hop circles, and Gonzales expects it to be a big seller at such urbanwear stores as Up Against the Wall.
Dada said he's fielded no complaints from anti-Nazi groups, but we figure they just weren't paying attention. The 32-year-old high school dropout whose passions range from the History Channel to classic rock got the inspiration for the Militant Series after soaking up hours of World War II documentaries from the History Channel, often referred to as the Hitler Channel, and from what kids were wearing. "Last season, military stuff was in," Dada says. "We did a Russian military jacket, a POW jacket—but I don't want to be part of something that pisses people off."
Oddly, the Militant Series hasn't yet crawled back into the bunker from whence it came. The outfits are currently not-pissing-people-off at Dragonfly's spacious boutique on Hollywood's Melrose Boulevard, where you can pick one up for the Nazi you love. Lucky Nazi.