Wearing your heart on your sleeve

Phillip Wiese

With the hotly contested presidential election still too close to call, students are silently showing support for their candidates through their fashion choices.

Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards shirts sprouted up everywhere. But not all of the shirts are campaign-related and may just advertise a general political statement.

Communication freshman Robert Lavenstein has a growing collection of political shirts, with slogans ranging from “War is costly” to “Campaign 2004: What’s your issue?” to a simple “John Kerry for President.”

“They’re reminders for people to think about where they stand,” Lavenstein said. “I like to wear the ‘vote’ (T-shirt) on Tuesdays.”

He added he receives the most comments when he wears his Kerry T-shirt he bought from the campaign store.

Although Weinberg sophomore Matt Yalowitz has a Kerry shirt as well as an Barack Obama for Senate shirt, his favorite shirt to wear says, “fcuk you, I’m voting!”

Although he says it is his most aggressive shirt, he said it’s good to actively try to get out the vote. Yalowitz sees the T-shirt trend as a way an individual can have an influence on the democratic process.

“This election there are a lot of people who are proud to wear their political leanings on their sleeve, literally,” he said. “When politicians have their name on a shirt, they have reached name brand status.”

Both Yalowitz and Lavenstein believe that someone wearing a pro-Kerry or pro-Bush shirt won’t change an onlooker’s vote come election day, but it opens their mind to the issues and forces them to think about the political process.

“When random people talk to you, it gets the ideas flowing,” Lavenstein said.

Josh Cline favors a shirt that says “Dubya is my homeboy,” though he tends to only wear it around his frat.

“It’s a way to say I support President Bush and I’m not ashamed of it,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “I don’t think anyone will change their mind but it’s a way to make supporters more vocal and helps to mobilize the support.”

According to marketing Prof. Tim Calkins, political items have always been part of the campaign scene, but with apparel ranging from flip-flops to hats to underwear, there might be more of a push this year than ever.

“Running a campaign is very much like marketing a product,” Calkins said in an e-mail. “As with all products, the brand (or campaign) managers have to figure out who to target, what messages will motivate those people and how to reach them.”

Reach Phillip Wiese at [email protected].