Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Eldridge Cleaver

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was born in 1935. By the late 1960s he had become a leading activist in the Black Panther Party, but after mounting an ambush on Oakland police, during which two officers were wounded and a Black Panther member was killed, Eldridge fled to Cuba and later Algeria to avoid prosecution.

In 1972 he moved to Paris where he became a born again Christian and turned his hand to fashion design. In 1975 he released his modern take on the codpiece with his “virility pants”, aka “Cleavers”. He promoted the idea that they would give men “a chance to assert their masculinity” and saw no conflict between the overt sexuality of his pants and his newfound Christianity.

Cleaver returned to the United States in 1977 to face the unresolved attempted murder charge. During the proceedings he incorporated Eldridge Cleaver Ltd. and began manufacturing and selling his “Cleavers”, which he claimed liberated men from “penis binding”. His charge was reduced to assault and he was sentenced to 1,200 hours’ community service, but his pants never found much success. Cleaver eventually joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became a member of the Republican party. He died in 1998.

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