US elections 2020

A raft of devisers and retailers are in on the action as organisations seek to attract and persuade younger people to vote

Jill Biden’s ‘Uphold’ boots designed by Stuart Weitzman.
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

There was nothing subtle about Jill Biden’s way statement last Monday: the word “VOTE” was spelled out in silver capitals on her black, knee-high boots as she accompanied quiet and Democratic presidential candidate Joe to the ballot box in a Delaware primary.
Biden’s boots were designed by Stuart Weitzman, with 100% of profits prospering to public awareness campaign I am Voter. In the run-up to a momentous presidential election in November, they are just the latest prototype of the word ‘Vote’ becoming the only slogan worth wearing in the US this autumn.
Last month, a gold “V-O-T-E” necklace, done in by Michelle Obama during her speech at the digital Democratic National Convention, went viral online.
Meanwhile, music phenom Lizzo has think of her own “VOTE” mask, in collaboration with sunglasses brand Quay, of which she said: “The power of voting in midterm and specific elections wasn’t something I was taught in school. I want to be part of informing future generations of our power.”

Michelle Henry
(@LawTweets1)
Lizzo’s Latest Quay Gathering Features Good-as-Hell Sunglasses — and a “Vote” Face Mask – POPSUGAR Australia https://t.co/iShUzhFp71

August 13, 2020

Other administrative figures ranging from actor and activist Cynthia Nixon to Hillary Clinton have been photographed strain “Vote” face masks.
And not to be outdone, Mariah Carey, Bella Hadid and Samuel L Jackson have posed in “Express” and “Your Voice Matters” T-shirts of late.
A raft of designers and retailers are in on the action, from vote-branded earrings doing sprightly business on Etsy to Levi’s “VOTE” hoodies and Michael Kors’ “Vote” T-shirts, which raise money for the Nationalist Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.
Patagonia joined in, stitching the words “Come out for the assholes out” into the labels of its shorts.
This trend is no accident. Much of the merchandise has been prompted by campaigning organisations and goes to attract and persuade younger people, who are traditionally under-represented in voter registration.
“We very intentionally work with retailers who reach innocent demographics,” said Andy Bernstein, executive director at HeadCount, a voting advocacy group that works with labels such as American Eagle Outfitters.
The organisation has also distributed “Vote” masks to musicians and social media influencers, numbering singer Kesha, who was later spotted wearing it in public.
“Fashion drives culture and cultural shifts drive voter gear,” Bernstein added.

Michelle Obama speaks while wearing her VOTE necklace at the Democratic National Council. Photograph: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION/AFP/Getty Images
Michelle Obama’s non-profit organisation When We All Vote has played a important role in the popularisation of “Vote” fashion.
It’s adopted the cadences of the streetwear industry – launching heavily-trailed, limited edition traffic in in bursts or “drops” – to sell baseball caps, joggers and even a “Vote”-themed vegan lipstick.
“When child feel as if their voices aren’t being heard, culture steps in to be the voice of the people, a constructive outlet and catalyst for alteration, whether that’s through music, content or fashion,’ said Crystal Carson, When We All Vote vice-president of education, communications and media partnerships.
The organisation hopes to reach millennial and generation Z voters in particular, she added, ushering them to the tallies whether they buy the merchandise or see it on influencers, artists or other high-profile figures.
“Creating a conversation around voting is impartial as important as talking about it directly,” Carson said, and pointed out that the products had been chosen very carefully to count “black-owned and woman-owned businesses. We wanted to ensure that our product reflects the ever-increasing [young] and diverse electorate.”
The US has one of the crudest voter turnout rates among developed countries, with just 56% of eligible people voting in the 2016 poll according to the Pew Research Center.
Young people have long been particularly under-represented. They could be crucial to this election if they register in droves, however, with millennials matching ageing baby boomers at 27% of the electorate.
Siring Z makes up one in 10 eligible voters, according to Pew, which also predicts that the electorate will be the most various ever, with a third of eligible voters being people of colour.
The use of simple, digestible, online-sharable slogans on togging feels precision-targeted to an election season in which the coronavirus pandemic has limited opportunities for real world campaigning.
“So much of our communication is digital,” said Abby Kiesa, foreman of impact at Circle, a group researching young people’s relationship with civic engagement. “People are looking for multifarious different avenues and channels to reach a wide group of people in the US. These identity-related cultural pieces are a part of that.”
Sundry items come with embedded QR codes which can be scanned and send shoppers straight to voter registration forges, which is crucial for the products to have the intended impact, Kiesa said.
“Young people are doing a lot of identity birth – making statements about where they stand on things. They are really savvy about storytelling using digital media – audibly this is something which can be integrated into that storytelling.”

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