Fashion emerges as Election Day issue
By Mya Singleton
HAMPTON, Va. – With Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4 approaching, more participants are showing their support by wearing voter paraphernalia. Voters have had the freedom to wear any presidential attire; however things will change in Virginia on Election Day.
The fashion world has become politically stylish as people encourage voters by wearing buttons, hats, stickers, and T-shirts of their preferred candidate. Many Hampton University students have decorated their backpacks, purses and laptops with stickers and buttons. Student organizations around campus have supported the election by selling T-shirts with phrases such as “Rock the Vote” or “Respect my Vote.”
Hampton’s Saturday Homecoming Bazaar and football game featured vendors selling presidential T-shirts. Ysmael Baylor, a junior computer science major said, “I think it’s good for people to support their candidate with the clothes they wear, but only to a certain extent so they are not over enthused.”
Stores, boutiques, and fashion designers are using the election to their advantage. Halloween trick-or-treaters had the opportunity to dress up as their favorite presidential candidate. Spirit Halloween and iParty stores pushed Halloween sales of Barack Obama and John McCain masks. A Hampton University student was seen around campus on Halloween dressed up in an Obama mask and suit. Students jokingly asked him questions about his opinions on the upcoming Election Day.
The election not only has students changing their sense of style. The fashion industry is also taking the event by storm. Designer Marc Jacobs has shown his election support by selling political T-shirts at his stores and online sites. Obama recently got support during Paris’ Spring/Summer ’09 Fashion Week. Designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac created an Obama dress and models supported the designs by ripping the runway.
Although most paraphernalia has positive messages, there was some controversy after people began selling T-shirts with slogans such as “Obama is my Slave” and “Vote Paris [Hilton] ’08 for President: Not that white-haired dude.”
Alyndria Thompson, a junior biology major said, “I think some voters do actually wear these certain shirts to support their candidate, however, some are just wearing it because it is the latest fad.”
Although voters have had the opportunity to support their candidates in any type of fashion, the Virginia State Board of Elections is enforcing a law in which voters will not be able to wear clothing, hats, buttons or other paraphernalia that promotes a certain candidate within 40 feet of and inside the polling place. If people wish to wear their apparel, they can remove their items or turn their clothing inside out.
Virginia is following this procedure similar to other states such as Maine, Montana, Vermont and Kansas. The State Board of Elections had to consider the citizens’ First Amendment rights, but decided to follow through because wearing the items is a form of campaigning that is prohibited on polling grounds.
Erin Jones, a junior broadcast journalism major said, “I’m wearing my shirt on Nov. 3 [Monday], since I can’t wear it when I go to vote on Election Day.”
People who choose to violate the law will be asked to leave the polling place, but they will still be able to vote at a later time. However, if a violator refuses to leave, they could be arrested.
On Election Day, the polling place is simply an area to vote and not to campaign or use fashion statements to encourage people. Voters started this political trend, but will have to rethink their sense of style when they go to the polls.
The writer is a junior at the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.