Urban Outfitters Is Selling Mitt Romney Shirts

Profit Or Politics?

This may be old news to some of you, but I’m just learning about the Mitt Romney shirts at Urban Outfitters and I’d love to hear what people are thinking. NPR just shared an article about the so-called hipster apparel shop and the interesting move they’ve made with shirts that feature the right-wing Presidential hopeful as a sort of pop icon. Many people are reading this with a political slant, others say it’s about fashion and that the shirts are more ironic than anything. But can fashion be divorced from politics, in this instance? Deets and a “Mitt Is The Sh*t” shirt inside.

NPR pulled together various reactions to the shirts. They’re calling it “The Politics of Cool“:

recent poll by Hiram College confirms that 18-to-29 year-old support for President Obama is 13 percentage points greater than that for Republican Mitt Romney. So when Urban Outfitters unveiled a line of Romney T-shirts in late May, the decision immediately generated a buzz.

“Mitt Romney’s stiff, suit-wearing persona is exactly the kind of thing the designers at a place like Urban almost certainly can’t help but see as kitsch, and that’s how they rendered it, for the benefit of the most knowing tranche of their customers,” wroteNew York Magazine. It opined that while “hope was cool back then,” the shopper whose T-shirt featured a Shepard Fairey portrait of Barack Obama in 2008 could not be assumed to wear any political attire “unironically” four years (and many fashion cycles) later.

piece by Salon‘s Mary Elizabeth Williams with the tagline, “Urban Outfitters’ sneaky conservative propaganda stunt markets dishonesty as irony – again,” noted that the company’s founder, Richard Hayne, has a history of donations to former GOP candidate Rick Santorum. Williams called the Romney T-shirts an “insidious” marketing ploy.

Donna Sturgess, president of the “neuro-insight” brand-research company Buyology, says that this reporting takes an intellectual view of Urban Outfitter’s inventory at the expense of emotional insight. She is adamant that “coolness” — and not politics — is the factor to watch.

Read more here.

I’m sure you guys remember a time long ago (circa 2008) when everybody and their Mama (including my family members) was wearing an Obama shirt. In fact, whole blog posts were written about it and we’d get to see Beyonce, Chris Brown, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ryan Gosling, Diddy, Pierce Bosnaneveryone rocking Obama. The shirts, to me, were more trendy than political and while I thought they were cute, it made me wonder if Obama himself was becoming a trendy idea. And if he was, what would that mean for future elections, if the trend started to die out (as trends are known for doing some of the time all of the time)?
 


 

And now it seems that Mitt Romney is becoming a trendy idea. But will these shirts have great bearing on the political choices people make? I always ask that question about bumper stickers and pins: do we really make important decisions based on these small things? In a way, I suppose we do. Because if nothing else, shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers create visibility. So just like the “Legalize Gay” shirts at American Apparel will create visibility for a certain movement, these Mitt shirts will too. But is it all far too trendy to create any real, lasting impact?
 

They’ve got an Obama Tebowing shirt too, just to be fair.

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  1. Baybridget

    Ugh

  2. Keegan

    Seems to me like a clothing company simply wanting to profit off of the upcoming election. I can see many people buying these “ironically” and just as many people buying them because they support Romney/Obama.

    I think they’re silly myself but hey, good for Urban Outfitters.

    Side note: I live in Canada and I’ll be curious to see if our UOs get these. And more curious to see if people will buy them.

    • @Keegan — UO is a Conservatively-owned company. They definitely have an agenda. It’s a matter of profit AND politics for them, IMHO.

    • you took the words right out of my mouth, trent! i honestly don’t see these as ironic at all, though UO benefits either way so it’s win win for them. (but hopefully lose lose :)

    • I am sure that all of the people who were selling and buying the Obama shirts also had an agenda as well as a desire to make money. I don’t recall there being an issue with that so I am not sure why there would be one now.

      Companies should be able to support and sell whatever they wish as long as it’s not disrespectful or ever the line. These shirts don’t appear to be either.

    • @fab4runner — I certainly am not implying that there is an issue at all with anyone selling any products they like in their stores. BUT, I think it is important for people to understand where the money they spend at certain companies is going. UO and Chick-Fil-A take some of the money they make and use it to fund homophobic organizations and politicians — their shirts may be cute and their food may be tasty but I have decided NOT to give them any of my money to be used against me in a political manner.

    • Travis

      How exactly does one monitor the political, religious and other spending habits of the companies they patronize? Do you have any idea the number of companies you’re a customer for each day?

      Let’s start at waking up today: bed manufacturer, mattress manufacturer, pillows, sheets, mattress pad, alarm clock, power that powers alarm clock, whatever you slept in, window manufacturer that enabled light to enter your room, A/C probably running as you slept, dog slept next to you, he’s powered by Purina and that vet (what if that vet is a Jehova’s Witness?!), did a security system keep you safe as you slept? You’ve got the alarm manufacturer, someone installed, someone monitors. Get it? Your feet haven’t even hit the floor and you’ve given your money to 25+ companies. It’s not feasible to cherry pick based on your agreement or disagreement with management and owners of every company you do business with. So, pass on the CFA nuggets because the CEO supports traditional marriage and drive to the Wendy’s, whose franchisee disowned his daughter for marrying a black man. He didn’t tell the media that and the media didn’t tell you though, so you can pat yourself on the back for not giving CFA your hard-earned dollars. As for me, I’ll watch the O’Reilly Factor while I eat some Ben & Jerry’s.

  3. rOXy

    UO has the right to sell whatever they feel appropriate within reason. This isn’t pornographic and it doesn’t offend delicate sensitivities. That said, these are just butt ugly. The one that is supposed to be an oven mitt is wrong. The Joker one is wrong. The gold lame harem pants is beyond wrong. You sure they are on this guy’s side?

    • rOXy

      edit: I guess that’s not The Joker, but is a likeness of Gene Simmons of Kiss? I know Gene supported GMR, but c’mon? Trying to be cool with that? Sooooo not.

  4. Lady2176

    I thought they were trying to make fun of MR when I saw them.

  5. nikka

    Considering CEO Rick Hayne had donated over ten grand to Rick Santorum before he was out, I highly doubt this is meant to be ironic.

  6. nikka

    And by Rick Hayne, I meant Dick Hayne

  7. kat :)

    That is a really scary thought, that voters (especially young ones) could be swayed by a popular shirt they see at Urban Outfitters…

    • The same can be said for Obama shirts. I think regardless of your political affiliation, it’s important for everyone to be knowledgeable and informed.

    • Christina

      I couldn’t agree more. If you are persuaded by a clothing store to vote a certain way then you have no business voting in the first place. People should educate themselves and make a informed decision!

    • Tracy

      Well there is only 1 Obama shirt so far, and it is obvious they only stuck an Obama shirt in for go measure and to seem fair. But, they are clearly putting in a silent bid for Mitt and the crazy right wingers. I didn’t know UO or Chick-Fil-A was part of the crazy right wingers. I will spread the word not to shop at their stores.

  8. Jessica

    Isn’t this the same company who got into trouble for their “Navajo” apparel?

  9. It’s going to take a lot more than a t-shirt to make Mittens look even remotely cool.

  10. There’s been a lot of fuss about all the Mitt shirts, but to be fair, they do have some liberal ones as well – this One Fine Piece of Ass shirt’s funny :) http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=25506742

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