Tomi Lahren has made her name as a sharped-tongued right-wing commentator, not as a fashion influencer. So it certainly caught people’s attention when the 25-year-old posted what appeared to be a sponsored Instagram photo for an activewear brand.
But Lahren wasn’t wearing just any pair of leggings; they were a pair of Alexo Athletica leggings, which are meant to conceal a person’s firearm as they exercise.
Alexo Athletica, founded by NRA TV host Amy Robbins, sells track jackets and leggings ranging in price from $84 to $124, putting them in the same economic league as Lululemon (a brand that also offers styles with pockets, thought they’re meant for cellphones instead of guns). But Alexo isn’t the only concealed-carry clothing label. In fact, such companies represent a rapidly growing trend in the activewear, undergarment, purses, and accessories space.
According to the retail analytics firm Edited, Walmart has increased its product assortment of concealed-carry apparel by 169 percent in the last three months, compared to the same period one year ago, and product has sold out at triple the rate over the same period. While women tend to purchase concealed-carry accessories more than they do apparel at general retailers, the bestselling concealed-carry item for women is a pair of three-quarter length concealed-carry leggings priced at $80.
A handful of direct-to-consumer brands have launched to sell concealed-carry clothing: There’s Alexo Athletica, the Well Armed Woman, and Gun Goddess, among others. Those niche brands are emerging at a time when the fashion industry at large has put gun motifs on ice, and when international brands like Gucci are throwing support — and half a million dollars — behind the recent March for Our Lives.
While fashion-capital-F is notably progressive, America’s largest retailers can have a more difficult time establishing their politics. Walmart, Amazon, the National Rifle Association store, and outdoor retailers like Cabela’s all sell concealed-carry accessories, while other big-box retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods face the damned-if-you-do dilemma in deciding to sell guns and firearm accessories.
Then there’s Bass Pro Shops: The Boston area store was set to host a CCW (concealed-carry wear) fashion show on behalf of the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL) of Massachusetts, a 16,000 member gun-rights community. But just before the show in early March, Bass Pro Shops canceled the event, which had sold at least 120 tickets, without commenting publicly on the matter. The fashion show, not dissimilar to those held in Milwaukee in August 2017 and elsewhere around the country, is now rescheduled to be held at a café in Foxborough, Mass., at the end of April.
The GOAL fashion show is also being coordinated with the Massachusetts Women Gun Owners group, one of several organizations nationwide that are trying to change the narrative surrounding the oft-gendered nature of gun ownership. Gun violence is often identified as a women’s issue, as American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a firearm than women in any other developed nation, an issue exacerbated by instances of domestic and intimate partner violence.
Still, figures like those don’t deter women who say they’re steadfast in their commitment to protecting their Second Amendment rights. In addition, the fires are fanned when CNN talking heads like senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes rely on the flimsy argument that teachers may be women, and thus may wear skirts or dresses, which would leave them incapable of storing a gun on their person. (As if that’s the most powerful argument for why teachers may not want to keep guns in classrooms.)
While there are those who are trying to bring fashion and firearms together (like blogger Style Me Tactical, with an Instagram following of roughly 15,000 people), many women say they require concealed-carry clothing for self-defense purposes and eschew any “shrink it and pink it” marketing.
“[Women’s concealed-carry clothing] is a way to lure more customers in, and make weapons more accessible to women. Some will try to make it sexy, as a style statement or otherwise,” says retail analyst and stylist Charcy Evers, who has noticed the CCW clothing space for women become more visible in recent weeks. (There are, after all, CCW corsets.)
“The idea of wearing a gun on your body is in keeping with what’s going on in fashion in general, where wearables and other very utilitarian ways to wear purses, like fanny packs or cross-bodies, are popular,” she says. “This is taking that to another level, and given the current environment, taking the idea of women’s empowerment to another level.”
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