Roland Martin’s Foray Into Fashion: Should Politics and Commercialism Mix?

September 22, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

CNN political analyst Roland Martin has parlayed his way into the fashion business. Recently, Martin, along with Verse 9 Neckwear, has created his own line of men’s ascots called the “Roland S. Martin,” which they labeled as the “new definition of swagger.”  Besides the ascots, the new line also includes an array of paisley-printed bow and regular ties, which I guess serves as Martin responses to the age-old question floating around in the hip-hop community, “you fancy, huh?”

What man, in this day and time, would want to wear an ascot besides Mr. Peanut, Thurston Howell III and, maybe Hugh Hefner is beside the point.  I am much more interested in Martin’s sudden foray in the dress cravat apparel mostly reserved for the gentlemen of the high Victorian society.

Please don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing dishonest with a man or woman, moonlighting as a fashion designer and making a little extra money on the side. Heck, to some degree, this column I write for the Post would put me squarely into that category. However, what I commit to on pen and pad are often the results of my own beliefs and desires.  But when it comes to Martin, I’m not quite sure he holds the same principle.

I may be wrong, but I don’t recall Martin rocking an ascot while dishing out commentary on CNN prior to his latest venture. He sure as heck didn’t have one on during his infamous and ill-informed berating of Shirley Sherrod, the former Department of Agriculture secretary, who was unjustly framed and fired for racial discrimination.

Much like the rappers and singers, who endorse products, not only in their music videos but their songs as well, Martin could be accused of using the time that supposed to be dedicated to critical analysis on current issues of the day, to hawk products – even if its as harmless as a necktie – for his own financial benefit.

Much like Al Sharpton, who often times uses his prestige – or what little of it he has – to sell everything from DNA paternity testing to climate change with Newt Gingrich, too much marketing gained from political and social commentary denotes a credibility problem.  In other words, I shouldn’t have to mull over whether the activist really cares about the issues or if he is using the issues to gain celebrity status or an appearance on an episode of wildly popular World Wrestling Entertainment.

While its not against the law to push products, it does beg the question if a public figure such as Sharpton or a commentariat such as Martin are breaking some sort of ethical standards by using their positions for marketing purposes.  In my honest and almost-free opinion, it borders on the line of sacrilegious.

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