The Election and Fashion Trends

By Tristen Graves


      Will Trends in Fashion Predict Winner

      Whether it’s a political statement or just a fashion statement, this year’s outbreak in political campaign apparel has transformed into a must-have item this season.

      This year’s election really is the first in history where presidential candidates are being worn among everyday dress. As we flip through magazines, walk through our grocery stores, and even among Hampton University’s campus, candidate profile pictures, logos, and specific issues are being displayed freely and openly. 

      “I think it is amazing how the election is influencing society and young people,” said Leon Hendrix, senior, broadcast journalism major at Hampton University. “We see Barack’s face on so many T-shirt designs. There were no JFK shirts and other presidential faces on T-shirts. He might as well have his own clothing line.”

      The differences among the two candidates when it comes to apparel is that McCain and his campaign are being printed on more traditional items such as buttons, badges and bumper stickers, whereas, Obama’s apparel has expanded greatly to things like T-shirts, mugs and even underwear.

      In an article posted on, reports show that Obama represents 75 percent of political sales while the items showing McCain only cover about 10 percent. Large trendy fashion stores, such as Urban Outfitters, sell shirts that read, “Obama for yo mama,” and “Barack ‘n’ Roll.” They also have Republican items that read “Vote ‘08” and T-shirts with emblems such as the red elephant.

      Other T-shirt vendors such as contain graphic designs with Obama’s face on them and slogans such as, “I love Obama,” and “Barack Obama 2008,” Many of the candidate’s apparel range in price from $12-$40, depending on style and quality.

      “I think it’s a great thing. It’s more publicity for him,” said Ebony Robinson, senior marketing major at Hampton University.

      “I got my T-shirts from D.C. when I went to Howard’s homecoming. I think it shows that younger voters care about what’s going on.” 

      T-shirt companies and merchandise vendors have greatly tapped into the social trends of this year’s election.

      Websites such as, which happens to be one of the largest online platforms for custom designed products, shows that Obama has more 87,000 T-shirt designs while McCain has 30,800. The trends across websites, such as CafePress and, also show that many of the messages intended to support Obama express positive statements. Most of the McCain messages are anti-Obama instead of pro-McCain.

      “I think it is good to see that there is an educated black man running for president,” said Candyce Wilkerson, graduate counseling student at Hampton University.” I support him and what he is doing. That is what influenced me to buy a shirt.”

      Hollywood has exploded with the political agenda as a result of the political fashion trends becoming increasingly popular among celebrities and fashion designers. As reported on, designers in Paris have even begun adding to their collection pieces that are inspired by Obama and his campaign. French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac introduced his dress of a portrait of Barack Obama paired with gloves that read “yes” and “no” during his spring-summer 2009 ready-to-wear collection presented in Paris.

      The Obama campaign has also used the new trends in the fashion industry as a way to collect additional funds to help support his campaign. As stated on, prominent designers, such as Juicy Couture, Russell Simmons, and Vera Wang have contributed their talents to the campaign by supporting the “Runway to Change” program. The initiative was launched on Sept. 9 in New York.

      “Because the T-shirts are being worn by people in the media it shows that often times people emulate what they see,” said Wilkerson.

      The McCain campaign has chosen to take a more traditional approach and not tap into the marketing trends like the Obama campaign and his supporters have done, however, the end result will tell if the fashion trends can predict the winner.