This picture shows famous actress Clara Bow in an outfit decorated with swastikas.
It is shared all over the internet claiming to have been taken during a 1932 promotion trip to Germany where she met Hitler, sometimes it is even suggested it shows she supported Nazism.
That is incorrect.
Clara Bow did go to Germany in 1932.
According to her biography she did meet Hitler who was a fan and gave her a signed copy of his book ‘Mein Kampf’, but she was not impressed.
According to the biographer David Stenn, in Berlin “a starstruck Adolf Hitler presented her with a signed copy of Mein Kampf. ‘For my most esteemed friend Clara,’ he wrote, ‘with the wish that she derives the same pleasure reading this book as I did writing it. Adolf.’”
‘Madness’ was all Clara had to say.
Some claim that Paramount Studio chief B. P. Schulberg made her wear it but I can not find any mention of the outfit or Schulberg.
Which would be rather strange to begin with as Bow left Paramount in 1931 and Schulberg would be fired in 1932.
It would have been rather odd for Paramount to let former employee Bow go to Germany with her ex-boss to promote a movie and that Bow would let someone whom she no longer worked for tell her what to wear.
There simply is no source for this story and no actual evidence at all that supports the story of her wearing this for those reasons during her trip to Germany in ’32.
At least none that I’ve found so far.
But above all, any expert of the era can see that the photo just doesn’t fit the story.
One of the swastikas is the wrong way around, which would be a bit silly for an outfit meant to impress Nazis.
But even more damning is the hat. It is a typical 1920s cloche hat.
These were very fashionable in the twenties but old fashioned and on their way out by the early thirties.
Of course you’d still see women wear them, but this is not just any woman, this is Clara Bow and this photo is a publicity shot. Bow was a world famous star, she was the original ‘It girl’, a style icon.
It would make absolutely no sense for her to wear this outfit in the 1930s, she’d be a laughing stock. It would literally be something shocking you’d read about in magazines and newspapers.
A bit like a modern day star known for being extremely fashionable, suddenly unironically sporting an 1980s mullet or something that is “so last season”.
This is what Clara Bow looked like during her trip to Germany in December 1932, you can clearly see that she is wearing a modern 1930s hat, a completely different design.
So what IS the story behind this infamous picture?
The swastika is an ancient symbol, popular long before the Nazis decided to claim it and ruin it’s reputation.
Especially in the US it became rather popular as a good luck symbol in the early 20th century.
You can find it everywhere, in advertising, on clothes, architecture, etc.
A bit like the peace symbol in the 1970s.
There is nothing strange about this outfit as a 1920s picture.
It is only our modern eyes who see the swastika only as a Nazi symbol that make this a strange photo.
The photo of her in this outfit was first published in The Los Angeles Times on Friday the 13th of April 1928 (Page 27) (link).
The description below the picture explains it all and proves once and for all that Clara Bow wore the outfit in the 1920s with the Swastika as a good luck symbol and didn’t wear it during her visit to Germany, even if she wanted to wear a swastika outfit because she supported the Nazi idea or because her studio made her, she surely wouldn’t have worn a 4 year old outfit.
More examples of 1920s publications of Clara Bow wearing that outfit;
Finally here is another example of fellow 1920s actress Helen Ferguson also posing with the swastika as part of her outfit;
Special thanks to Flickr user blsolar for the clipping.
- UNLV special collections and archives
- Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild, biography by David Stenn.
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