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“:
A 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.
A 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 Bosnan… everyone 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.