Thank you to the AP and my good friend Chaniga Vorasarun over at Tonic.com for addressing a question I’ve been mulling on for a while, but was too lazy to answer for myself. Are people still buying Obama stuff? Says Vorasarun:
The president sells. At least, he used to. Prior to last year’s election, you couldn’t walk two feet without seeing the face of our future president on t-shirts, gazing towards the future in Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous rendering, on mugs, looking concerned, even popping out of a box, as in Barack-in-a-box.
But now, after the glow of the first 100 days have worn off – and in its place have come debates over health care, climate change and the war in Afghanistan – some Obama-based entrepreneurs tell the Associated Press that sales of presidential merchandise have also waned.
Chani, I know you know this, but you’ve been on the West Coast too long. Come home and walk down 14th Street at Union Square with me and I promise you will be hit in the face (possibly literally) with Obamabilia, as you say, or Baratchotkes as I do. (OK, I’ve never said that before. But I might now – if it weren’t so tongue-twisty.)
It shouldn’t be surprising at all that sales are finally waning. Rather, I find it shocking that there are still sales to speak of. Maybe I haven’t lived through enough presidencies — Clinton and Little Bush haven’t helped my Executive Branch batting average — but I can’t think of any other instance where the merchandising of our Commander in Chief had such market saturation. The only comparably iconic presidential products I can think of are I Like Ike buttons or Nixon masks, and the latter really has Point Break to thank.
Whenever I walk down card-table-lined streets in the city I’m amazed that nearly a year after the election Obamamania yet rages, at least from a retail market standpoint. It’s pretty normal to sport your candidate’s moniker across the chest of a 50/50 poly-cotton blend before the nation heads to the polls, but it’s nigh on 2010 and Obama shirts and bags and pins and posters — and apparently the occasional jack-in-the-box, the creepiest of children’s toys — are still being shilled and shelled out for.
Eventually Obama the clothing line will go the way Umbros and Big Johnson, but for now our first celebrity president has the merch presence of a touring rock star. I guess that makes wearing Obama gear like boasting “I saw them at CBGBs in ’83.” And everyone wants a chance to say I Was There.