As I walk along down a side street in downtown New York, I can't help but notice the graphic tee that is hanging at eye level as I walk by a small clothing store. The t shirt has a giant peace sign in the middle, with a black and white image of Barack Obama inside of it. There are others: one t shirt says “hope" below the image of Obama, others simply have a vintage design of his face. These are typical political graphic t-shirts, but of a new kind.
Graphic tee designers have understood that there is a clear demand in the U. S. - and internationally - for shirts depicting the presidential hopeful. He represents change - not only through his campaign, but in the way he has been conducting his campaign, with a strong Internet presence and a new campaign funding structure. Just as certain rock groups - the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Ramones - each had famous band t shirts, which sent a universal message that went beyond their music, Obama graphic t-shirts say something that appeals to a wide audience. Designers have come-up with a plethora of graphics to convey this message of hope and change, mainly revolving around a vintage look, or a touch of rainbow here and there.
Hillary Clinton missed out on the graphic tee train. She did not appeal to the right age group for designers to start making t shirts in support of her. They tended to be anti-Clinton, in fact. Bad photos of her looking quite tired or with devil horns on her head were common on t shirts- not the kind of clothing that you want people wearing when trying to convince voters. As for the graphic t-shirts that were in support of her, they were meant mainly for older middle aged women, not the young people who were wearing Obama tees.
The same goes for McCain, but he has it even worse. His target age group is of another epoch - shirt designers are not interested by the market that is out there for shirts that support him, but the contrary. Graphic t-shirts that reference McCain usually tie him to President Bush (one t-shirt calls him McSame), to water boarding, or to the rich. His tee designs usually revolve around a white, red, and blue color scheme, with a giant star on the back of the t shirts.
Another thing that Obama has going for him is that the graphic t-shirts depicting him are still rather exclusive diverse and some are hard to find. New York clothing stores have not yet embraced these graphic t shirts and therefore, leave intact the feeling of wearing something original when one finds an unusual political message tshirt that support that candidate. What Obama has achieved is an online marketing campaign that runs itself through its young supporters and graphic tee designers, something that McCain may have to pay for dearly later down the road.
Al Keser is a New York clothing fashionista, journalist, and video producer. He writes for online retail store of R. A. G New York that has 5 Manhattan locations and being a perfect place to buy New York clothing and accessories.