In 2020, you are only as strong as your merch. Drake seems to have created an entire collection around his upcoming Certified Lover Boy album, McDonald’s is dropping merch with none other than Travis Scott, and now Joe Biden is getting into the glamorous world of hyped-up merch. The presidential candidate’s new drop features a more robust collection of designers than the upcoming NYFW schedule. The “Believe in Better” collection harnesses the influence of well-known designers like Thom Browne, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, and Prabal Gurung for a line of merch to support the candidacy of Biden and Kamala Harris. The collection features mostly standard pieces emblazoned with the Biden-Harris logo. For our purposes, one item stands out among the rest: Kanye-adjacent designer Joe Perez’s tie-dyed “concert” tee.
In any other election year, Perez’s concert tee would have been right on the nose, with the presidential hopeful’s schedule looking not unlike that of The Rolling Stones. In 2020, though, in the midst of a pandemic that has strangled the campaign’s ability to freely travel, the tee reads as a funny reminder of what could have been. Perhaps more notably, it also feels a lot like the final frontier of the freaky Grateful Dead-inspired aesthetic sent into the stratosphere by brands like Online Ceramics, tossed with a dash of circa-2013 streetwear graphics.
*Respected Leadership*, indeed!
The new tie-dyed Biden tee is a textbook case of how trends trickle up from the subculture, inevitably corralled and devoured by the mainstream. Perez, the former art director for Kanye West’s Donda collective, melts together the aesthetic of OC with the stacked-together graphic looks of a brand like Been Trill, the collective that counted Virgil Abloh and Matthew Williams as members. While the latter brand is far past its prime, it’s still not a reference that would typically come up when talking presidential campaign merch. The collision of these two aesthetics does result in something very fitting for a presidential campaign: a not-entirely-successful attempt at splashing the campaign with a bit of cool. This tee isn’t on the level of Hillary Clinton’s cringe-inducing “Pokémon Go to the polls,” but making streetwear-inspired merch that would look best on Animal Crossing avatars is certainly in the same neighborhood.
Alongside the tie-dye tee is a scarf designed by Thom Browne, a Vera Wang hoodie, Victor Glemaud bucket hat, Joseph Altuzarra bandana, and a Carly Cushnie crop top (a top-requested item, according to Vogue). The merch follows the now-tradition of big-name designers banding together for the Democratic candidate for president. In 2016, Marc Jacobs and others made tees in support of Hillary Clinton and almost two dozen designers did the same for Obama in 2012. “We are in a battle to restore the soul of our nation, and we’re seeing Americans across the country come together in a variety of ways to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because they are the leaders we need to heal and unite the country,” Rufus Gifford, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement. “I thank these designers for volunteering their time and talents to help win this election and the hardworking people who brought these designs to life.”
Thom Browne x Grandpa Joe.
Courtesy of The Biden Victory Fund
If you go searching for hope within these designs, though, it can be found. After all, relative to most campaign merch, items like the “concert” tee are pretty far out. And it fits into what we can understand as the greater Biden project. Over the past couple months, the Senator from Delaware has warmed to some of the more further-left policy ideas pushed by folks like Bernie Sanders. Biden reportedly confided to an aide for Sanders that he wants “to be the most progressive President since F.D.R,” according to The New Yorker. In other words, he plans to do with the country pretty much what he’s done with this T-shirt: take some radical ideas and make them palatable for a much broader audience.
Victor Glemaud’s bucket hat: great for you, and for your boomer dad.
Courtesy of The Biden Victory Fund