Students Express Politics Through Buttons and Shirts
October 28, 2004 2:50 PM
August Beck walks around the Quad carrying a box full of Ralph Nader bumper stickers, buttons and pamphlets as he struggles to hold a plastic bag of political t-shirts with a free hand.
With the elections this week, Beck and many SF State students are expressing their politics through fashion.
“We have sizes small to extra large," joked Beck as he walked through Malcolm X Plaza. Inside his plastic bag is a green "End The War, Vote Peace. Bring the Troops Home" t-shirt that the International Socialist Organization (ISO) is selling for $15 a piece.
“We've sold four so far,” said Beck.
According to Beck, who wears a blue "Vote Nader" button everywhere, political attire is a way for students to send a message. “We get compliments and people love the green shirt,” said Beck, 21. “Everyone wants the war to end and to bring the troops home.”
Historically, SF State has been a politically active campus. In 1968, students held protests against the Vietnam War, which eventually led to the creation of the ethnic studies department. Earlier this year, an estimated 1,500 students held a walkout in protest of the school budget cuts agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California State University (CSU) Chancellor Charles B. Reed.
And with over 30,000 students and a heavily contested election this year, the buttons, t-shirts and other forms of political attire have hit the campus hard.
According to Kristy Collins, president of the Student Fashion Association on campus, fashion is a great way to visually express your thoughts. "Fashion is self-expression," said Collins. "Outrageous political shirts get more of a reaction from those who don't agree with it."
Michelle Cole owns the Lost Horizon shop on Haight Street, where many specialized t-shirts and hats are sold. According to Cole, the $22 President Bush satire shirts have been a hit with her customers. "It just came out really big," said Cole as she rings a customer up. "I normally wouldn't carry them (and) the customers introduced them to me."
While sales have been steady, said Cole, customers can choose between three Bush shirts. " 'Good Bush, Bad Bush' is their favorite," said Cole.
Jordan Green, a member of the Queer Alliance on campus, doesn't think political propaganda fashion makes a difference, especially in an election year. He also believes most people who wear the shirts don't understand the issues.
“Political shirts are dated,” said Green, 18. “To be political, you don't have to buy a shirt. People who wear them (t-shirts) are not really political. I saw this guy wear a 'No Blood for Oil' shirt and drove an SUV."
Theresa Caballero, 22, wears a white shirt in support of social workers and likes political fashion. “I think they're just great, like the pins or bumper stickers,” she said.
Susan Thompson is a registered Republican and supports President George W. Bush through a pair of flip-flops. “I'll wear a red t-shirt that says 'Decide for Him' on the front and on the back, 'Vote Bush,' ” said Thompson, 24.
“And the flip-flops are attached to my waist,” said Thompson, who describes herself as an “oppressed Republican” at SF State. “John Kerry is a flip-flop because actions speak louder than words. His voting is inconsistent.”
Enrique Cordeiro, 44, is a returning student and supports Kerry by wearing a Democrat National Convention baseball cap. "Bush has gotta go and Kerry's not that bad," said Cordeiro, who is a legal resident and cannot vote this year because he is not a U.S. citizen. "Kerry's far from perfect but is better than Bush."
Holly Cornel, an apparel and design merchandising student, wore a rhinestone pin this semester to encourage students to register and vote. “I think (fashion) doesn't have a strong influence on other people's opinions,” said Cornel, a 19-year-old registered Democrat.
“(Fashion) is a freedom of expression and college students are broke,” said Cornel. “Shirts cost extra and are not free like bumper stickers.”
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