Putting the words “celebrity” and “activist” next to one another makes for a fraught description of some members of Hollywood’s A-list, but for decades, Jane Fonda has been one of the rare celebrities to accurately represent the term.
During the 1960s and 1970s, she protested the Vietnam War. But lately, it’s been her commitment to protesting climate change and advocating for environmentalist groups in Washington, D.C. that has captured the nation’s attention.
With the exception of one weekend, each Friday—dubbed Fire Drill Fridays by Fonda herself—the 81-year-old activist has been arrested by police while peacefully protesting the dangers of climate change at the United States Capitol.
On October 18, the actor and activist was just arrested for the fifth time since October 11, alongside her Grace & Frankie co-star June Diane Raphael, Marg Helgenberger, and Robert Kennedy Jr. They will likely be charged with crowding and obstructing.
On the first Fire Drill Friday, she was arrested alongside members of Oil Change International, an environmentalist non-profit group. The following Friday, on October 18, she was arrested with Ted Danson and her Grace & Frankie co-star Sam Waterston. The week after that, she was arrested with Catherine Keener and Rosanna Arquette, and spent a night in jail. November 8—the fifth consecutive week of her Fire Drill Friday protests—marks the only Friday in six weeks that Fonda was not arrested.
For Fonda, activism was never just a trend. She has been arrested before—most notably in 1970, when, after speaking out against war at colleges in Canada, she was taken in for suspicion of drug trafficking. The NSA had been monitoring Fonda, an anti-war advocate, for three years at the time, and continued to monitor her until 1973. Those pills she was carrying that led to her arrest were confirmed to be just vitamins, but when Fonda’s mugshot—in which she sported her iconic Klute hairstyle and held a solidarity fist up to the camera—made it to the public, this image of Fonda became symbolic of anti-war activism.
And to further demonstrate her commitment to highlighting the horrors of climate change, Fonda has decided that the fashion industry and its promotion of wasteful consumerism should not be spared.
On the day of her first Friday arrest, the activist pledged to never buy another article of clothing ever again. In fact, Fonda claimed that the red coat she has been wearing every week is the last vestment she purchased. “You see this coat? I needed something red and I went out and found this coat on sale. This is the last article of clothing that I will ever buy,” she told the crowd.
“When I talk to people about, ‘We don’t really need to keep shopping. We shouldn’t look to shopping for our identity. We don’t need more stuff,’ then I have to walk the walk too,” she said. “So I’m not buying any more clothes.”
Some celebrities wouldn’t be caught dead in the same outfit twice, but Fonda isn’t just any celebrity. This level of devotion to protesting climate change is something we’ve seen with the non-celebrity crowd, like 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, for example, who has become somewhat of a celebrity in her own right. It is Thunberg, after all, who inspired Fonda to stop buying clothes in the first place.
Fonda really is putting her money where her mouth is, too—just this week she wore the same ensemble to two separate events. The black sequined suit Fonda wore to the Glamour Women of the Year Awards showed up again three days later at the GCAAP Empower Party in Atlanta.
On small and large scales, the celebrities make sartorial choices that communicate a point of view, whether it’s an overt political statement or not. Take Kanye West in a “Make America Great Again” hat or Alyssa Milano always wearing Doc Martens whenever she takes meetings on Capitol Hill, for example. Perhaps the last time politicized outerwear went this viral, we had Nancy Pelosi and her Max Mara coat to thank. But Fonda’s firetruck red wool coat—which she told The Hollywood Reporter only cost $500—is something else. Like her Klute hairstyle from that 1970 mugshot, this piece has become a symbol of exactly the type of celebrity activism we need right now.