There once was a time when retailers avoided political discourse like sidewalk vomit, but everything is upside down in Trump’s Belligerent America. According to a recent report from WSJ – that was detailed by GQ – more and more consumers are basing their clothing purchases on brands’ political affiliations, rather than the actual product.
As GQ’s Rachel Tashjian writes, in the past, “consumers might be inspired to buy a certain brand’s clothing because of some perception of coolness or because of quality.” Now, “it seems that consumers expect brands to take a position on a wider range of issues that have little to do with clothing itself.” Or, more plainly, purchasing decisions aren’t about taste, they’re a form of advocacy.
The WSJ report found that “brands, including clothing brands, are increasingly finding themselves aligned with the Republican or Democratic party, leading consumers to make purchases that are informed more and more by a brand’s perceived place on the bipartisan political spectrum.”
“From 2004 to 2018, the report found, “the customer bases for a number of clothing brands have become “closely associated” with political parties.”
Wrangler, Walmart and L.L. Bean have all had an uptick in Republican customers — from 2004 to 2018, “Wrangler’s customer base shifted 13% from Democrats towards Republicans” — while brands like Levi’s, Nike and The Gap have all “shifted towards Democrats.”
In light of these findings, Tashjian (convincingly) argues that “wearing clothing, or the desire to participate in fashion, is becoming another way in which people confirm their biases.” And because our biases are now our guiding principles, it “puts designers in the position of trying to outdo each other’s altruism rather than innovate and say something meaningful about the time in which we live.”
Fundamentally, partisanship seeping into our daily existence isn’t shocking, Tashjian said. What’s “striking” is “the shift in consumer expectations: quality, artistic creation, or individuality are no longer paramount factors in spending money on clothes… now what matters is whether the brand agrees with what you believe.”
You can read more about it at GQ.