February 25, 2024

Political Clothing, a Quadrennial Phenomenon: Every Four Years, a Stream of Politics-themed Gear Emerges

Every Four Years

The U.S.A. is one of the only countries to hold regularly scheduled elections. Every four years we have the chance to elect a new leader. This person is often known not just as our leader, but “the leader of the free world.” It’s a serious decision, but Americans manage to add humor and levity as only we can.

More and more, America has become a nation of ravenous consumers, and political campaigns—especially presidential campaigns—take full advantage of our shopping obsession. T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, buttons, and yard signs, as well as coffee mugs, pens and pencils, and stationery are available for devotees across the political spectrum. Whether you’re an Obamaniac or McCainiac, or even a supporter of Ron Paul or Libertarian candidate Bill Barr, you can wear your candidate’s face on your chest or toast your contender with a mug bearing his (or her) mug.

Websites Carry a Flood of Gear

Although political gear can certainly be found the old-fashioned way, in stores or at campaign headquarters, the internet is the place to look for anything other than straightforward campaign merchandise. Websites such as Café_Press carry unusual, humorous, unconventional, and irreverent clothes and other items.

T-shirts that are pro- and anti- every presidential and vice presidential candidate, political party, and ideology abound. Many are not ready for prime time and have to be blurred when their wearers are shown on the nightly news.

Left, Right, and Center

There are also sites that cater to specific ideologies and opinions. Some of them can be rather extreme, and some strive to be more family-friendly, such as left-leaning Ban_T-shirts.com and conservative American Method.com. Zazzle.com has hundreds of T-shirts featuring every conceivable candidate for president, including one that says “Vote for My Dog.”

Uniquely American

One of the most unusual aspects of presidential and election clothing and gear, is that it is only relevant for a short period of time. Although many people have left their Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers on their cars for the past four years, mainly in protest of the current administration, who still wears a John Kerry or Bob Dole T-shirt?

Al Gore may be the only non-winning presidential contender who is still a relevant force in the political-gear market. His stances on global warming, Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize have arguably made him more popular with the American people than the man who beat him for the presidency. Designer Marc Jacobs has even released a line of Al Gore T-shirts, trucker hats, and tote bags.

If you are a fan of political gear, hold onto it. Buttons for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, and their fellow presidents and candidates sell on eBay and as collectors’ items for many times their original prices. So even if your candidate doesn’t win, you can take heart in knowing that his or her button may one day be worth big bucks.