I hate to break it to you, but the 743rd Democratic Presidential Debate is happening tonight. Even worse, Mike Bloomberg has finally reached the requirements to join the debate field for the first time in his campaign. I'm not here for all doom and gloom, though, and I've never seen a fog that a little retail therapy couldn't heal.
To keep it topical, I'm breaking down the best presidential merch sold directly by the campaigns. The bootleg merch out there is fire, especially for Bernie Sanders, but that's a whole other wormhole. There's truly something for everyone, as I found pieces you could adorn proudly from each of the candidates in tonight's affair. Some even rise above the category to become legitimately good garments — like, you could imagine them coming from a streetwear brand. And yes, Tom Steyer failed to qualify for tonight's debate, but his offerings are so good I had to include something from the more affable billionaire in the field. Sorry, Tulsi Gabbard, you have neither the qualifications necessary for the debate nor my own little list.
This is the grail of all presidential merch. The bootleg market is full with band/Bernie riffs, but this is the real deal, stemming from The Strokes’ performance for Sanders’ New Hampshire rally. Julian Casablancas is as cool as it gets, and this shirt is no different. It may be pandering to a certain demo (e.g. Brooklyn leftists) but dammit it works. ($27)
I’m a sucker for throwback candidate photos — see the Hillary Clinton tee Rihanna once wore — and the consistency of Sanders’ unkempt look over the decades only makes it all the better. This easily could have come from the DIY crowd, as deceptively simple and covetable. ($27)
Much like his candidacy, I can say one thing about Joe Biden’s merch: it’s certainly there. At their best, his apparel offerings fall short of excitement. At worst, they’re plain corny. This T-shirt calling for Donald Trump to release his tax returns reeks of old man sass, but I’m willing to file it under “so bad it’s good.” Every time I look at it I hear “shut up” in Biden’s voice, which makes me laugh. ($30)
Billionaire Bloomberg has spared no expense when it comes to buying his viability as a candidate, and his merch can’t be any different. A bag must have been spent for a graphic designer because as much as I hate to say it, the shirts are good! This intentionally shitty illustration manages to poke fun at Trump’s hair while highlighting how dangerous he is to the environment. If it didn’t come from Bloomberg, I could see a lot more people wearing it. ($22.25)
Dammit, Bloomberg, you’ve done it again. The minimal, off-centered placement of this hand-drawn gun safety graphic is *chef’s kiss*. My only hope is that a designer I respect didn’t sell their soul for a serious check like all those meme accounts. ($22.25)
We’re doing presidential scarves now? This is a development I can get behind. Elizabeth Warren’s logos look fantastic knitted as they provide a subtle way to rep the woman with many, many plans. Swap them out for another name and initial and I could easily see this piece coming from a reputable brand. And if you wanna go all in, cop the matching beanie as well. ($40)
Amy Klobuchar’s merch is the worst of the crowd, which is really saying something compared to Joe Biden’s. There are no articles of clothing I could condone putting on your body, but this bumper sticker… this bumper sticker rules. I’m baffled that this well done snark hasn’t made its way to any other items. Join the anti bumper sticker bumper sticker club by slapping this on your reusable water bottle and calling it good. ($4)
Tom Steyer only running for president to become friends with Sanders has become an excellent meme, but what if he’s really doing it for the merch? This old-school font and colorway for Nevada is choice. Take away “for Tom” and this could be the perfect kitschy-yet-still-dope tourist tee. ($20)