Wearing the Vote: Political Expression and Fashion in Election Season

Wearing the Vote: Political Expression and Fashion in Election Season

Fashion has always been a way for individuals to express themselves, their beliefs, and their identities. During election seasons, fashion takes on an even greater significance as it becomes a platform for political expression. People use their clothing choices to communicate their political beliefs and affiliations in a subtle yet effective way. Whether it's wearing a t-shirt with a candidate's slogan or a pin supporting a particular cause, fashion can speak volumes about an individual's stance on political issues. In recent years, this form of political expression through fashion has gained more attention and significance, with celebrities and everyday people using their clothing choices to make a statement.

The Historical Perspective

The history of political fashion

The concept of using fashion as a form of political expression is nothing new. Throughout history, there have been numerous instances where clothing and accessories were used to make a statement about political beliefs. From the suffragette's white dresses to the Black Panther Party's iconic berets, fashion has played an important role in political movements.

Using fashion for activism and political statements has been a tool for a while now. During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, African Americans used fashion to challenge societal norms and express their identity. For example, the "Black is Beautiful" movement promoted black beauty and self-acceptance through fashion and beauty standards. In more recent years, fashion has also been used to support various social and political causes, such as the #MeToo movement and clothing aimed towards LGBTQ+ rights. Clothing and accessories have become popular and powerful tools for raising awareness and advocating for change.

Campaign Merchandise

Campaign merchandise, such as buttons, hats, and t-shirts, have become a staple during election seasons. These items not only serve as a way for candidates to raise funds but also as a means for supporters to show their allegiance. Campaign merchandise has evolved over the years, from simple pins and posters to more creative and fashionable items.

This kind of merchandise has proven to be an effective tool in mobilizing supporters and promoting candidates. Individuals can publicly display their support for a particular candidate and can serve as a conservation starter or icebreaker with others who share similar beliefs. In some cases, these items have even become collector's items, adding a sense of exclusivity and value for supporters.

Some supporters have even taken to making their own merchandise using the same kind of branding for a particular candidate. For example, following the Trump Indictment, many people created their own "Trump Indicted" merchandise, turning a political statement into a fashion trend. Many websites have started to sell their own versions of this design, including the website, Thought Merch, which is currently selling a "Free Speech Indicted" t-shirt with an image of the Trump mugshot.

The Rise of Fashion Activism

In more recent years, brands and designers have started to incorporate political causes into their collections. Whether it's feminist slogans on t-shirts or runway shows with a social or political message, fashion has become a platform for activism.

There are many examples of clothing lines and accessories that are aimed at providing support for social and political movements. For instance, designer Christian Siriano released a collection featuring the slogan "People Are People" in response to President Trump's travel ban. Fashion brand Warby Parker has also partnered with different nonprofits to create limited-edition eyewear collections supporting various causes, such as education and access to clean water.

In addition, celebrities have also used their fashion choices to make political statements. At the 2018 Grammy Awards, many attendees chose to wear white roses in support of the #TimesUp movement and to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault in the music industry. This small accessory became a symbol of solidarity and sparked conversations about important issues.

The Subtlety of Symbolism

Symbols and colors have been used in political fashion to convey certain messages or ideologies. For example, the color red is often associated with conservative values, while blue is often linked with liberal beliefs. Symbols such as the American flag or peace sign have been commonly used to show support for a particular political party of movement.

Subtle choices made in political fashion can often convey powerful messages. For example, wearing a shirt or accessory with a specific word for phrase can communicate one's stance on a particular issue without having to say a single word. Additionally, the placement of certain symbols or designs on clothing and accessories can also have a significant meaning and impact.

Celebrity Influence

Celebrities often have a significant influence on popular culture and can often use their platform to make political statements through fashion. From wearing statement t-shirts on the red carpet to using their various social media accounts to promote certain causes, celebrities have become powerful advocates for various political movements.

Award shows and public appearances have become key moments for celebrities to use fashion as a form of political expression. In 2018, the Golden Globes saw a sea of black outfits as actors and actresses showed their support for the #MeToo movement and the Time's Up initiative. The following year, the Grammy Awards featured artists wearing white roses in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement.

Voter Engagement

Wearing political fashion can serve as a powerful way to encourage voter engagement and participation. By proudly displaying one's political beliefs through clothing and accessories, individuals can spark conversations and potentially inspire others to get involved in the political process. In some cases, wearing campaign merchandise or items supporting a certain cause may even lead to donations or volunteering for a particular candidate or movement.

There are numerous stories of individuals using clothing to start conversations about elections and engage others in the political process. From wearing campaign merchandise to sporting a statement t-shirt at a protest, fashion has been used as a means of sparking meaningful discussions about important issues and getting others involved.

The Challenges of Fashion and Politics

While the use of fashion as a form of political expression has its benefits, it also comes with potential controversies and challenges. One issue that often arises is cultural appropriation, where non-minority individuals appropriate elements of minority cultures in their designs without proper acknowledgment or respect. Another challenge is the risk of brands using political causes solely for profit and not truly supporting the movement they are promoting.

There have been numerous instances where fashion choices have sparked debates or backlash due to their political implications. One notable example is when First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket with the phrase "I Really Don't Care, Do U?" while visiting migrant children at the border. The choice of clothing was heavily criticized and seen as insensitive towards the issue at hand. Other cases include brands facing backlash for using cultural or religious symbols in their designs without proper understanding of their significance.

Fashion Beyond the Election

While political fashion is often associated with election seasons, it extends far beyond that. In fact, many individuals continue to use clothing and accessories as a form of ongoing activism even after the election is over. For example, wearing pins or buttons supporting a cause can serve as a reminder for others to stay informed and involved in important issues.

Many individuals use clothing to advocate for causes they believe in, even long after an election has ended. From wearing t-shirts promoting environmental conservation to using fashion as a means of showing support for marginalized communities, people continue to incorporate their political beliefs into their daily wardrobe choices.


The intersection of fashion and politics has become a powerful platform for individuals to express their political beliefs and promote important causes. From award shows to everyday outfits, celebrities have shown how fashion can be used as a means of activism and inspiring others to get involved in the political process. As we continue to see the impact of fashion on political engagement, it is important to have ongoing discussions and awareness about the potential implications and responsibilities that come from using clothing as a form of expression.

The enduring connection between fashion and politics in shaping political discourse cannot be denied. From the suffragette movement to modern-day protests, clothing has been used as a means of expressing political beliefs and inspiring others to take action. As we continue to see how fashion can influence voter engagement and promote ongoing activism, it is clear that this intersection will remain an important aspect of our society. By embracing this connection and using fashion as a tool for positive change, we can continue to spark important conversations, raise awareness, and make a meaningful impact on the world around us.

Call to Action

Fashion and politics go hand in hand and have a powerful impact on our society. So how can you use your fashion choices to express your political beliefs and promote important causes? It can be as simple as wearing a statement t-shirt or incorporating symbols of your favorite social movement into your outfit. You can also support brands that align with your values and actively advocate for positive change in the fashion industry. Every little action counts and can make a difference in shaping public discourse and promoting social and political change.

If you're looking to incorporate politically-themed clothing and accessories into your wardrobe, there are many resources available. Here are a few suggestions to help get you started:

1) Shop at brands that actively promote social and political causes. Many fashion companies have begun incorporating activism and advocacy into their business models, so do some research on brands that align with your values and support them by purchasing their products.

2) Look for independent designers on websites like Etsy who create unique and politically-themed clothing and accessories. These small businesses often have a strong focus on social justice and offer a wide range of items to choose from.

3) Attend political rallies or events and purchase merchandise being sold there. This not only supports the cause, but also serves as a visual representation of your participation and support.

4) Get creative and make your own clothing or accessories with politically-themed messages. This allows you to fully customize your fashion choices and express yourself in a unique way.

Remember, the possibilities are endless when it comes to using fashion as a form of activism and promoting political change. So don't be afraid to get creative and have fun with it!