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April 11, 2024

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    As we enter into the poetics of April, also known as national poetry month, here are four voices from well to lesser known. The Tradition – Jericho Brown Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Brown visited the last American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP 2024) conference, and I loved his speech and humor. Besides […]
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Spring Housing Guide

Dressing to vote

Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words. What about a T-shirt?

Can a T-shirt send a message, impact millions or even discourage people from voting?

Many critics say that Vintage Vantage’s “voting is for old people” T-shirt will do just that.

The T-shirt company, is known for their obscure shirts that feature phrases like: “We be illin’ Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital” and “Drugs Are Dope.” They are responsible for the “Voting is for Old People” T-shirts and began selling them at Urban Outfitters last February. As soon as the shirts were placed in shelves at Urban Outfitter stores, people began to complain about the message that they were sending to young people.

Leaders of Harvard’s Institute of Politics sent a letter to Urban Outfitter CEO Richard Hayne, explaining that the shirt “makes the wrong statement at the wrong time to America’s youth.”

Many students at the University agree with the critics.

“I don’t think it’s funny personally,” sophomore Laura Brenner said. “I don’t think it’s something you joke about.”

John Keddie, the owner of Vintage Vantage said that he believes that everyone overreacted.

“We created the shirt because we thought it was funny,” said Keddie. “All of our shirts are sarcastic and irreverent, including this one. It was never meant to be taken at face value. The fact that it would make some uptight people uncomfortable is definitely part of the shirt’s charm, and we like nothing more than mocking those who take themselves too seriously.”

Regardless of how sarcastic and funny the shirts seemed to the creators many took them personally.

Only 200 shirts were sold before Urban Outfitters decided to discontinue selling them due to scrutiny.

The company then took a new approach.

They decided to channel all of the attention into increasing voter turnout by offering the T-shirt for free.

But there was a catch.

Anyone that ordered a free shirt had to promise to send a picture of themselves wearing it outside of their voting booth on Nov. 2.

“We feel very strongly that a big youth voter turnout is of particular importance this year,” said Keddie. “Giving people a fun thing to do at the polls could help sway some people who were on the fence. It also is a bit of a redemption for this shirt that we feel was wrongly accused, we hope to silence some of the critics.”

They have given out over 600 free shirts already. However, when many students at the University were shown the shirt they looked at it with disgust and had a “I wouldn’t wear it even if it is free” state of mind.

“I thought it was a cute T-shirt, but I wouldn’t wear it because I think that it is really important for young people to vote,” Brenner said. “But I think it’s visually appealing.”

University sophomore Alexis Fichtenbum agrees.

“It’s a cute style shirt, but I wouldn’t wear it because I think that it is important for us to be able to vote,” she said. “I think people should be able to sell what they want though, I don’t know why they would give them out free. I just personally wouldn’t buy it.”

Some students had a more light-hearted opinion of the shirt.

“I don’t think that old people just vote,” freshman Stephanie Thacker said. “I think it’s kind of funny. It’s just a T-shirt, maybe it could get more people to vote.”

Senior Bob Logsdon takes this view.

“I think it raises awareness to people because in general young people don’t vote very much statistically,” he said. “I think that if it’s going to change someone’s mind not to vote they probably aren’t going to vote in the first place. I think something like that helps make people more aware, it takes eye-opening things or shocking things to motivate young people. I would wear it.”

Tom Wiseman, a political science instructor at the University understood the message that Keddie and the company is trying to get out.

“I understand what they are saying,” said Wiseman. “Okay sure maybe it would be less painful for some if it read ‘voting is not only for senior citizens’ but I think its pretty direct and pretty clear and perhaps we need to have something to give that jolt of encouragement to folks.”

He said that senior citizens do have a higher voting percentage than young people, so the shirt is factual. He believes that this is a trend because seniors have experienced more in their life and they recognize the importance of voting.

The T-shirt received mixed reviews, but drawled a lot of attention and passionate opinions about voting.

Keddie enjoys the reaction that the shirts receive and plans to continue to remain in the eye of the storm.

Although the company is no longer offering the shirts for free, because of the high demand, they are offering them at a reduced price.

The T-shirts can be ordered on the Vintage Vantage web site, www.vintagevantage.com, for $9.50 including shipping.

“I think by wearing the shirt you’re telling people that you can understand irony and participate in the political process at the same time,” Keddie said. “And you’re confusing the hell out of some people, which is always fun.”

It looks like Keddie and his company that he describes as spaghetti without the sauce (he enjoys the noodles better), will remain in the spotlight at least until Nov.. 2.

FACT BOX:

*Only 36 percent of people 18 to 24 voted in the 2000 elections as reported by the census bureau.

*People age 18 to 24 had the lowest percentage of voters as any age group in 2000.

*72 percent of people age 65 to 74 voted in 2000.

* 63 percent of all people with at least some college experience voted in 2000.

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