Express your vote with a pin on a coat

Brenna McNamara

Local pin designer says ‘the body is the best medium to promote one’s views’

A skinny white boy with orange-ish hair swept across his forehead sports girl pants and a tight white T-shirt with iron-on letters that say “Vote McCain.”

“I’m a hipster,” he says “and I can’t remember whether I bought this shirt ironically because I actually hate McCain; or if I, in fact, support John McCain; or maybe this is a band that I’m into?”

This satire that poked fun at McCain aired on the Oct. 7 episode of “The Colbert Report,” and it depicts the trend of using the body as the vehicle of conveying political messages to others. This election has sparked the creation of shirts, pins, shoes-even clothing for dogs-to promote candidates or voting in general.

Screenprinting politics

Employees from screenprinting shops said they haven’t had many orders for election-related shirts.

“Not many people really care,” said the manager of Kent’s Custom Shirts and Sportswear, who goes by Jaic. “The amount, actually the lack, of shirts we make are an indication of the lack of concern or care for this election.”

The shirts that local shops have been making, though, represent a wide variety of ideologies.

Jaic said the only shirts that Custom Shirts and Sportswear has made have been “gag-ish or joke-ish shirts.” They include anti-Palin sentiments and anti-Obama sentiments, she said. One shirt said “Vote for Him” with a picture of a “butt-face,” which represented McCain.

“I’ve done the whole turban thing against Obama,” she said. “I’ve done about six shirts that are straight up McCain, Palin. They all seemed total white supremacist.”

Young’s Screenprinting in Cuyahoga Falls has only made a few individual shirts, and of these, there have been a few that have strong pro-McCain slogans.

“Some guy came in and asked for a shirt that spoke against voting for a celebrity and Obama’s hype,” said Laura Guardalabene, an employee and sophomore visual communication design major.

The unbiased Bookstore

While screenprinting shops have the freedom to print shirts promoting a certain viewpoint, the University Bookstore does not, said cashier co-coordinator Veronica Victoria. Although Kent is a more liberal campus, the company that owns the Bookstore also owns other universities’ book stores that may have a more conservative clientele, so they refrain from being biased and opt not to sell shirts with specific promotions.

The Bookstore sells unbiased shirts that promote voting in general, but no shirts that support a specific candidate. Victoria said she hasn’t sold one of those shirts, personally.

Victoria said the store does sell McCain and Obama “caricature-ish” bobble heads, which are very popular. She said of those sold, there have been about five or ten Obama dolls sold for every one McCain.

The impact of election-related apparel doesn’t seem relevant to Victoria.

“I don’t think fashion would sway anyone to vote in any particular way,” she said.

Pins for a cause

On the contrary, Erin Shukait, 25, of Lorain, believes the body is the best medium to promote one’s views. Since September 2007, Shukait has made one-inch pins based on clients’ requests.

For the election, she pre-made pro-Obama pins and donated them to the Ohio For Change campaign in Lorain.

The pins she designed include such phrases as “Obama=GOOD”, “McCain=BAD” and “I’m Voting For That One 2008” and “Some people do not have the choice. (Vote).”

Shukait gives the pins to volunteers so they can take something home with them to remember the good they have done during the election.

“I don’t want to make money off the election,” she said in an e-mail interview. “I just want my candidate of choice to win.”

Shukait said because she simply donates these pins and does not make them for money, she doesn’t think she would make a pin supporting McCain.

Grassroot Tees

Kyle McColgan, freshman international relations major, creates “don’t fit the mold of store-bought” tees.

“The shirts are nothing extravagant, by any means,” he said. “But it’s important to get the message out there, even if it is with a white tee and permanent marker.”

Writing “McCain: Oh Ayt” across old shirts is how McColgan gets his message out.

“You gotta work with what you have,” he said.

McColgan said he doesn’t have the money to buy a McCain shirt, nor does he believe buying a shirt from a store is a good idea, as the money goes only to the T-shirt companies or the store. He’d rather make his own, he said.

Why? Breaking the idea that Republicans are uptight snobs is key, he said. By wearing such throw-together shirts, it proves there are still McCain supporters who don’t care about material possessions.

“It’s kind of like those PC commercials that are out now that go against the trendiness of Macs,” he said. “It’s cool to show that McCain supporters have underground support, too.”

Contact all reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].