Back in 2008, young people were thoroughly and earnestly excited about Barack Obama, presidential candidate. Even Urban Outfitters, where irony goes to curl up on itself and get bedazzled and be-feathered, got in on the hope-and-change game: The retailer sold images of the famous Shepard Fairey Obama rendering. They passed the “cool” test for the retailer’s teenage and twentysomething target audience, but only because hope was cool back then. This election cycle, Urban Outfitters is offering up a number of Mitt Romney designs for sale, featuring such slogans as “Mitt is the Shit” and “2 Legit 2 Mitt.”
Brokelyn sees it as the company selling out and catering to hipster Republicans: “This line of Romney shirts would be some mawkish form of irony (UO’s bread and butter) were the election over, much like this Nixon tee, but with the heat still on and the outcome unclear, is there any other way to interpret the wearing of it as an endorsement of Mittens?” Well, yes. Call us jaded, but it seems like nothing so much as the apogee of that “mawkish irony.” Certainly some customers who buy the shirts will be youthful Romney supporters, but the designers’ choices speak volumes. Mitt Romney’s stiff, suit-wearing persona is exactly the kind of thing the designers at a place like Urban almost certainly can’t help but see as kitsch, and that’s how they rendered it, for the benefit of the most knowing tranche of their customers. It’s no longer quite as cool to wear your political T-shirt unironically; we’re living in the age of Veep, not the West Wing. The only new thing this election cycle offers up for this particular flavor of opportunistic marketers, it seems, is disdain. Let’s see how it sells compared to the more straightforwardly hopeful Obama gear.
Update: As noted by Brokelyn and commenters below, the owner of Urban Outfitters is a high-profile contributor to GOP politicians, including Rick Santorum. (But maybe it’s ironi … oh, never mind.)