POLITICAL FASHION In Case You Were Wondering What To Wear To Class…

As long as fashion has been in style, clothing has been used to express the beliefs, ideals, and socioeconomic status of the wearer. From the deep purple robes worn by the aristocracy of Renaissance Europe, to the peace-symboled, tie-dyed T-shirts of 1960’s hippies, what a person wears has been a medium of communication for people who have something they want the rest of the world to know. And when it comes to having an opinion about something, nothing fires up a heated debate faster than politics. With one of the most influential and important presidential elections of recent history approaching at a rapid pace, it seems like everyone wants to ensure that his or her opinion is known – hence the plethora of political-themed apparel being thrown in students faces every time they attempt to push and shove their way through the UC Breezeway.

Despite the fact that it might make students late for class, the political fanfare on campus adds variety. There are Kerry supporters, Bush fans, random Nader followers, and then those people who just don’t give a damn who you vote for, as long as you get out there on Nov. 2 and cast your ballot.

“I think it [is] essential that students express themselves in controversial areas such as politics. Similar to the students of Tinker vs. Des Moines in 1969 (where school administrators tried to suspend students for silent protesting the Vietnam War with black armbands), UM students are practicing their first amendment rights. And although it may stir negativity between those of opposing parties, voting and communication through dress is our part of the political process,” Lauren Byrne, freshman, said regarding the political fashion around campus.

“Since young people are into fashion, [the recent trend of political clothing] is helping to make the students aware of the importance of voting,” Stephanie Merkin, junior, said.

Getting the 42 million voters between the ages of 18 and 30 to realize how vital their vote is seems to be the driving force behind the production of all the political attire. Take for example Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Citizen Change program, which is manufacturing the “Vote or Die” T-shirts seen on celebrities and students alike. Although “Vote or Die” might be a bit harsh, Combs’ intentions are in the right place: Trying to get young people interested in the issues. Giorgio Armani is getting in on the action, too, with his “Think fashion makes a statement? Try voting,” shirt created by Marie Claire for Armani Exchange. All proceeds from sales of the shirts benefit the nonprofit organization Step Up Women’s Network.

Celebrities aren’t the only ones hoping young people exercise their right to vote. OUTspoken, a branch of the University of Miami club SpectrUM, has been selling “One-Term President” T-shirts (hand painted by club members) in the Breezeway since last week. As of Sept. 28, they had sold out their stock and are now using the profits to make more.

Pro-Kerry shirts, such as the one created by OUTspoken, seem to be the most abundant of the political fashion genre. There’s the “Vote Kerry” shirt actor Jack Black sported at the VMAs and the “fcuk Bush” shirt by French Connection (both are on sale at www.votekerry.com). However, Bush supporters can get their knocks in, too, with the “John Kerry is a fairy. Real men like Bush” shirt created by g-mart.

No matter what you’re for or against, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, one thing’s for sure: there’s a shirt out there for you to make sure your voice is heard (or in this case, seen).

Danielle McNally can be contacted at d.mcnally@umiami.edu.