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A Brief History of Paparazzi-Thwarting Clothing

Leonardo DiCaprio uses a baseball cap to shield his face. Kind of.
Bruce Bennett/Getty

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Celebrities have been using clothing to hide from or fight off the paparazzi for ages, but new technology has brought a new dimension to the duplicity. After all, they can’t all be like Kanye West, the new best friend to paparazzi – sharing Ubers with and hugging them and shaking hands with the French version thereof. In fact, Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio is famous for his attempts to avoid them. Although, being famous for hiding just really demonstrates how bad you are at hiding in the first place.

Perhaps instead of going for big, giant jackets and umbrellas Leo should look to the future and invest in some paparazzi-confounding tech. There’s the anti-paparazzi t-shirt designed by photographer Nick Knight for Kate Moss and her young teenage daughter when they were followed by several male photographers at the airport. It holds a secret explicit-laden message that only appears in the face of a paparazzi camera flash. You can pick up the top yourself for $80.

The shirt Nick Knight made Kate Moss, without (L) and with flash (R). Photo: SHOWstudio

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen could give Leo a run for this money, though – their way of hiding has literally been uplifted to an art form, in an exhibit that debuted in April of this year, curated by two UCB alum, Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen. Instead of using, as the painted images present, boxes of cigarettes and their own sleeves, they could try the ISHU anti-paparazzi scarf, which retails for $376, is made from a highly reflective material that renders any high flash photo essentially useless, and would fit right into their oversized bohemian aesthetic. The highly reflective aspect is a bit of a winner here: Betabrand collaborated with DJ Chris Holmes to take this self-reflective idea beyond just a scarf. The collection, FLASHBACK, includes jackets, suits, hats, and scarves that are so reflective only the clothes come out in flash photography, seeming to hang off of a dark human-shaped shadow.

Looking at the pictures of the Olsen twins, though, it seems that celebrities certainly find the strangest things to hide behind. I suppose when you want to just keeping going about your day without much fuss but without much prep, a makeshift ghost costume, a handbag, a scarf, or a Chanel beach towel are sometimes the only things nearby that can save you.

Ghost in the flash with the ISHU scarf | Check out what we have cooking over at #WhatstheISHU

A video posted by ISHU Clothing (@whatstheishu) on

Jaden Smith had a much better idea when he dressed up in an Iron Man costume to meet his then-girlfriend Kylie Jenner (!) back in 2013. Apparently he was ahead of his time – since then, celebrities have used geeky disguises to walk freely in plain sight. These getups work best at Comic Con, which since 2013 has always been followed by revelations of which celebrities were in disguise. While Andrew Garfield had dressed up as Spiderman all the way back in 2011, only revealing himself when asking a question to the Spiderman panel, Daniel Radcliffe and Maisie Williams both hid under the blue and red mask in 2014. Brian Cranston simply dressed as himself – literally, wearing a Breaking Bad mask all the way to his Comic Con panel in 2013.

Bryan Cranston with his Bryan Cranston mask. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty

If worse comes to worst, celebrities could always try prosthetics. And I don’t mean the fussy fake mustaches or wild wigs that Drake and Arnold Schwarzenegger and their ilk have put on for a laugh, but actual prosthetics that change the shape of your whole face. Kevin Bacon tried this, but found himself more than a little shocked at the response, saying "No one was nice to me…[people] looked right through me." So basically, he walked around like a regular person does. The horror! That’s probably why he starting riding the subway disguise-less.

Maybe instead he could pick up the Censored! Black Bar Sunglasses, which perch on your nose not unlike the black bars that cover up people’s faces when they haven’t signed the requisite reality show agreements allowing their faces to show up on TV or photos.

While the sunglasses cost a whopping $9, don’t let that be a measure of how well they work. The reviews are phenomenal.

Amazon reviewer Al Ragle gives instructions for how to wear these bad boys: "I wear these out pretty often to complete my outfits. Here's some tips to get the most out of them:

1. Don't act like you're wearing them. Just don't. Everyone who borrows my pair find it absolutely necessary to act sort of attention-whorey. Don't do that. You get attention while you wear them.

2. They go with pretty much everything. It's not so much your look in these glasses so much as it is your attitude. Go back to number 1 so you may have an even firmer understanding of this.

3. These aren't for basic bitches who are trying to take "bold" fashion statements on their day to day basis. These are for weirdos who've made a lifestyle out of bold fashion statements and choices."

Another Amazon reviewer C. Montgomary points out how the sunglasses can be used by regular people: "I bought a pair to wear to family gatherings this year, because there is someone who insists on being a jerk and taking pictures of everyone after repeatedly being asked not to. People suggested to me to just not go to the gatherings if Jerkface was going to be there, but then I thought... why should I let Jerkface win? Why should I be deprived of a family gathering just because Jerkface is being a jerk?"

The sunglasses do have one flaw, however. Reviewer Adam Laceky says, "The only problem is when I wear them, paparazzi follow me everywhere. On the other hand, I've robbed three banks without getting caught, so they've already paid for themselves many times over. Be sure to look for me in People magazine!"

But if those don’t appeal, there’s always buying and never leaving a paparazzi-proof apartment – and if you’re being followed by paparazzi, surely you can spare the $50 million.