hillary clinton swag has swag
The Democratic party’s lead candidate has inspired some pretty inspired merch.
Last month, when the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 decision to legalize gay marriage across the United States, like many optimistic people, Hillary Clinton was ready with a tweet of support. The word "history" appeared in her feed—each big, proud block letter emblazoned with a rainbow stripe, the "H" replaced by her Pentagram-designed presidential campaign logo. (The graphic was later updated to be her profile photo and header, too.) "Hillary Clinton" and "gay rights" would go down in "history" together, it not-so-subtly suggested.
Not long after that, Clinton began directing followers to a related category of her online shop, the "Pride" section, packed with pride-centric campaign fare like bumper stickers, buttons, and tees. But Clinton, who was the first of the five declared Democratic candidates to create specific merchandise dedicated to gay rights, does more than just slap the symbolic rainbow onto things. She delves a little deeper with her merch, attempting to connect with voters on a cultural level—most clearly with a tee declaring "Yaaas, Hillary" over a black-and-white vintage portrait of the candidate.
Overall, the swag in the "Hillary for America" shop is impressively representative of current cultural trends, transitioning from the Obama-Romney era of softer, more Americana-inspired fare to the timely approach of Instagram-ready zingers (like the self-aware "Everyday Pantsuit Tee") and novelty items like the "Chillary Clinton" koozie pack from the shop's "Summer" collection. Her lifestyle-brand-like approach to casting is no amateur move either. While opponents like Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul feature no models on the sites for their merchandise, the Hillary shop paints a picture of its ideal customer (also known, eventually, as her voter) in surprisingly hip and multi-cultural strokes.
The shop is so much more than buttons and bumper stickers, too—its currently shilling plenty of offbeat products like spatulas and a "Stitch by Stitch" throw pillow featuring the phrase "A woman's place is in the White House." And the store appears committed to compelling merch on every level—a lapel pin isn't just that. In the Hillary shop, it's a Pantsuit Lapel Pin. So far, Clinton's campaigning strategies have often borrowed from Obama's playbook in ways that don't always feel like the best fit for her story, but her approach to retail has been a successfully bold departure.With direct and indirect fist bumps from style conscious celebrities like Lena Dunham, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Beyonce, it's no wonder her merch is so on point. It seems her staffers heard RuPaul's post-announcement tweet loud and clear. ("You betta work, @HillaryClinton! " she posted back in April.)
Clinton and her potential presidency have inspired lots of independent designers, too. (And most people have even been able to resist the urge to beeline for the color pink. Lots of these designs appear on direct-selling sites like Etsy, and also feature an impressive range of inspiration, enthusiasm, and inventiveness. In some cases, artists cheekily riff on iconic imagery like the "You Can Do It" poster (often successful), while others work Clinton's likeness into the Statue of Liberty (less so). There is also, of course, the irresistible opportunity to bring Bill into it, which has created its own mini-category of "Bill for FLOTUS" garb.
But it's 2012's "Texts from Hillary" meme that seems to be most inspiring for her crafty fans. A cursory search of the merchandise featuring the photo that Dunham Instagrammed to show her support has already been applied to everything from necklaces to stickers to tees. Some have elected to bring her into their own cultural orbit, with pieces like flowery brooches and tees featuring pot leaves. (Never mind the fact that she has yet to come out in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana.) Mean Girls, of course, has found its way into the conversation. And people also seem to be fairly excited, somewhat inexplicably, about the nickname "Trillary Clinton". (Clinton is many things, but Trill? Really?) If her merchandise is any indication, Hillary Clinton is—like so many politicians and public figures—many things to many people.
It remains to be seen how boldly more traditional retailers will throw their weight (and their wares) behind the Clinton campaign. (Urban Outfitters, for one, crashed and burned in their off-color attempt in 2012.) But the climate has changed rapidly since then. With feminism a daily topic of online conversation, it seems impossible that fashion's Girl Bosses who are hot for Hillary will keep their alliances to themselves. That's great news for shoppers: The spoils of the 2016 election could be worth collecting. And for Hillary Clinton fans on a budget? It's probably not worth it to wait for a sale.
Text Mallory Rice