Clothes Making Political Statements

Aug 10, 2004

By George Anderson

The current race for the White House is shaping up to be one of the most contentious
and divisive in the modern era. That’s just fine with clothing designers and
retailers banking on driving sales by aligning with causes or offering merchandise
in support of or against a given candidate.

American Apparel’s t-shirts and underwear have become one of this summer’s
hottest sellers because the company has connected with consumers drawn to its
message of being environmentally friendly and “sweat shop” free.

Marian Salzman, a futurologist and executive vice president and chief strategy
officer for the ad agency Euro RSCG Worldwide told The Guardian, “Being
politically engaged is very trendy right now.”

Ms. Salzman pointed to the activism of entertainers such as P. Diddy and Ben
Affleck as raising the profile on being politically involved.

Recently, music luminaries, such as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,
Babyface, Dave Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks, Ben Harper, Jurassic 5, John
Mellencamp, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M., announced the formation of the Vote For Change
political action committee and concert tour to get voters to turn out for the
November 2 election.

To the suggestion that the musicians were misguided and promoting an anti-GOP
stance with Vote For Change, John Mellencamp told the Herald-Times, “If
there (were) a Democrat in the White House, and this was going on, we’d still
be doing this. This is a protest. It’s a protest about the abuse of what we
feel are American values. And in this case, it just so happens that, yes, this
is a Republican president.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on manufacturers
and retailers using political activism as a marketing tool?

You can go down a slippery slope trying to drive business
by taking sides in a political campaign. That’s why we recommend that for every
t-shirt on the rack with a “Regime change begins at home” slogan there should
be a “Kerry: A Candidate For All Sides On Every Issue” right there with it.

George Anderson – Moderator

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