Sunday, July 06, 2008

Consumer Culture: Peeking Underneath Campaign Tee-Shirts

There's no use hiding the fact that I'm head-over-heels for Obama. I love what he says, I love how he says it, I love dreaming about the kind of administration he'd create. I LOVED the fist bump and totally believed it was unrehearsed. I could practically be the Obama Girl!

While I've got the Obama bug, but there's one thing I don't got: an Obama tee-shirt. (Is that like being patriotic but not wearing a flag pin?)

This occurred to me the other day, when a friend mentioned seeing a tee-shirt that says "Obama Says Knock You Out" and I immediately decided I needed one. (The slogan is a pop culture reference remixed in this You Tube video.)

But then I started wondering, where's it made? What would my dollars really be going toward? Wouldn't it be better to buy directly from the campaign, cast my dollar vote where it counts?

So I did some cruising around the 'net looking to see what other kind of wearable Obama propaganda is available out there. Obama's official campaign webstore offers some nice options, stylish cuts for women, clean graphics. But nothing too fun. Their cleverest design plays off the over-imitated "got milk?" campaign, but to me the phrase "got hope?" isn't that appealing at all, even if the price is cute ($20.08).

I suggest they do one that says "got change?" instead. It would more accurately echo the campaign's ubiquitous one-word slogan, AND would also be way more funny, as in the recent headline from The Onion: "Black Guy Asks Nation for Change." Hilarious! (I do love the Obama baby onesie, though, and there are some great Obama-themed prints donated by artists. But I digress.)

Though unexciting, I was very pleased to see that the official Obama shirts are all Union Made in the USA. You'd think that would be a foregone conclusion, not worth mentioning. Wouldn't a presidential candidate naturally make sure his or her merch is American made? Well, no. I remember a story from the last election where it turned out that some branded pullovers worn by the Bush people were made in China (which is probably where all those flag pins are made too.)

Anyway, according to the small print, it appears that 100% of your tee-shirt purchase price goes to the Obama campaign, and that's a good reason to buy it too. (Thought I don't get that really. Are they donated? If I bought, say, the ladies baseball jersey, what % of the $25 sale price would actually go toward the campaign? Certainly I'd hope the workers are getting decently paid for making them, that the cotton growers and dye-makers are getting paid, and so on. So how does that work?)

Also, it unfortunately appears that the shirts are made from conventionally-grown fibers, and in fact I don't even see an organic option. I'm disappointed about this. I mean, hello??? This is important!!! C'mon guys, you're supposed to be really involved in making eco-conscious choices!!! (Organic shirts are easy to find elsewhere, though, if you google it.)

Regardless, the Obama Says Knock You Out shirt is the one I really want, and it's not on the official site. Instead I found it's sold by Urban Outfitters, which to me is a careless corporate entity that co-opts the indie spirit and parodies art, fashion, and craft in pursuit of the bottom line. It has stockholders to please, after all.

And as if that weren't enough, it may be that buying an Obama tee-shirt from Urban Outfitters is also casting a dollar vote for some unsavory business practices and political affiliations if this article, this article, and this Wikipedia entry are true. (BTW, the company owns the chain Anthropologie and the label Free People, too.)

There's no way I'm supporting the questionable sourcing of something I don't even really need. That is SO being part of the problem.

So what's a conscientious Obama-loving girl to do if she wants to show her support and remind people to vote?

I guess just straight up donate to the Obama campaign and then embroider my own damn Obama slogan on a plain tee-shirt I already have...

... or maybe I'll volunteer or get the campaign to hire me to consult them on such matters!

'Cause Obama may have my vote on Election Day, but when it comes to dollar votes I'm still undecided.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans. Image sourced here.


Callie said...

Amy, silly girl, why don't you just make your own t-shirt? Or order one custom from Etsy's Alchemy section?

Greenjeans said...

Yes exactly! That's what I suggested there, couple paragraphs before the end.

I like the Etsy's Alchemy idea too, though...