The name of Joe Biden’s new designer merchandise line is “Believe in Better,” but the standard for campaign t-shirts is already abysmally low. Donald Trump’s reelection team sells “#BuildTheWall” tees and tops that quote Biden’s “You Ain’t Black” gaffe. Until recently, one could buy a “Baby Lives Matter” onesie for the low, low price of $18. (It has since been scrubbed from the site.)
So Joe Biden, man of the people, dropped a new line in Vogue on Monday. The nominee, who raised a record-breaking $364 million in August, tapped 19 fashion designers to create new ways to print his name on things.
Jason Wu’s black, bulbous “Rebuild With Love” sweatshirt looks cozy enough, perfect for when the much-feared coronavirus second wave relegates us all back into our homes, eating all of our quarantine snacks in one day.
Prabal Gurung’s “Stronger in Color” t-shirt manages to promote not only the Biden/Harris campaign but the designer’s go-to catchphrase (a win-win scenario for both brands, but a lose-lose for whoever has to put on the t-shirt, which is both flag and rainbow printed).
For $45, one can buy a red, white, and blue scarf by Thom Browne, with “Believe in Better 2020” blazoned on the neck. It’s very rah-rah patriotic and looks like it’s been tossed from an Olympic bobsledding uniform—or MAGA rally.
There are two tie-dye shirts, one by Gabriela Hearst and another by Joe Perez. The Perez option, a blue “Concert Tee,” comes stamped with “Battle for the Soul of The Nation,” which is a Biden quote one cannot help but read in a WWE announcer voice.
Joseph Altuzarra made some floral foulards, which is how the super-rich say handkerchiefs. “I was interested in bringing back the bandana as a piece of political messaging,” the designer told Vogue, citing how the accessory was used throughout history in labor movements and gay cruising culture. “I wanted to design something that really met the moment and the 2020 significance of the bandana is really as a mask.”
The Biden branding is woven into the pattern, and the naked eye might not even notice it at first.
The same cannot be said for Victor Glemaud’s “JOE” bucket hat, which screams his name in blue embroidery. It is a decidedly Gen Z accessory, and if it does not single-handedly win the youth vote, that is probably because they are too busy coming of age in the middle of a pandemic, climate crisis, and global protest movement to notice that new stuff came out for them to buy. (It’s still a cute hat, though.)
Carly Cushnie, who often dressed Michelle Obama when Cushnie was one half of Cushnie et Ochs, created a simple white crop-top featuring the nom’s signature. Aurora James, the designer behind Brother Vellies, made a gingerbread-tinted crew neck that reads, “We Make the Difference / Black Women for Biden/Harris 2020.”
“I am over the moon to share that I have created this very special sweatshirt in support of @joebiden @kamalaharris and it is available RIGHT NOW!” James wrote on Instagram. “I’m sure that everyone who is reading this understands on a soul level the magnitude of the time we are in. I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of a nation of Black women that will help us bring home this WIN in November. This shirt is unapologetically for us—and make no mistake that Black women are about to make history this year.”
It is a good reminder that while most campaign merch exists to be dorky, some of it serves as a token of hope. A Biden shirt means different things to different people—and if it helps its wearer picture a better future, then it has done its job.