Denim Day sparks student solidarity


Junior and co-president and junior Bella Nguyen (right) hands a denim patch to junior Ellie Roth (left) during lunch on the Quad today as a part of this year’s Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment Club National Denim Day. According to Nguyen, the national day began through a movement to prevent victim blaming in sexual assault cases. “This day is supposed to hold power,” Nguyen said. “This day carries weight by spreading awareness and advocating against sexual assault by wearing denim and we encourage all students to do so.” (Photo: Celina Lee)

Celina Lee and Leena Hussein

From pants, shirts, jackets and shorts, a blue sea of denim washed across the Quad during lunch as students from Palo Alto High School gathered today to learn about a national event that takes place the last Wednesday of every April — Denim Day.

The campus event was hosted by Paly Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment — a club that aims to promote a safe campus environment by educating students on sexual misconduct and raising awareness of sexual violence. According to junior and RISE co-president Bella Nguyen, the club members spoke about the sexual assault conviction case that initiated Denim Day and put up a denim photo booth on the Quad to raise awareness and advocate against sexual violence.

“In previous years, RISE has hosted Denim Day dress-up for the entire school, but I think we’ve had a lot of good turnout this year and this year is actually the first time we’ve done an event [on the Quad],”  Nguyen said. “We have a photo booth set up where students can take pictures with a denim background and post on their social media to raise awareness and advocate against sexual assault.”

In addition, RISE provided clip-on patches of denim for students and staff to wear if they did not have denim clothing. Among the people wearing patches of denim was history teacher and RISE advisor Austin Davis, who said the club wants to emphasize its goals through community events.

“This club’s mission is to raise awareness about sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships,” Davis said. “This day is totally in line with that mission.”

The National Denim Day movement was established following a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court in 1998, where an 18-year-old woman’s sexual assault conviction was overturned because justices believed that her jeans were “too tight to have been taken off herself.” Women in the Italian Parliament wore denim jeans the following day, showcasing solidarity. This act of support developed into an extensive campaign pointed at preventing victim-blaming and educating people about sexual violence, which has continued to this day. 

According to Davis, RISE’s mission is to grow the involvement of students in events like these and to spread awareness on a larger scale. 

“The fact that they’re doing it [the Denim Day event] is a good thing,” Davis said. “I feel like we could definitely get more people involved. We don’t have a ton of people who are showing up to our booth, but I think that’s more emblematic of the larger culture and the club is trying to change that culture. You’ve got to start somewhere.” 

According to freshman Chloe Huang, the decision to wear denim today was motivated by the idea of standing behind students and survivors in the Paly community.

“Wearing denim is an easy way for students to express their support,” Huang said. “Especially for people who want to help spread awareness against sexual assault but don’t know how to.”

Nguyen said she hopes more students will feel supported by telling the story behind Denim Day and through future RISE events.

“Having a day dedicated to spreading awareness about sexual assault is really important,” Nguyen said. “It gives Paly students a reminder to stand up against sexual assault, be empowered, and remember that they’re not alone and they have resources and help available to them. Specifically, days like these help the Paly community, in general, speak about difficult topics.”