Marketing for the Politically Correct
'DO you have any politically correct greeting cards?" asked the shopper in blue jeans.No, but Politically Correct Clothing, a small store with raucous windows tucked away three blocks from the White House, has almost everything else. Politically Correct Clothing is where you go to find a gift for someone who has a sense of satire or is really into peace, rain forests, feminism, pandas, politics and other issues. It flaunts amusing T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, with enough one-liners to keep Jay Leno fueled for a month. Its owner, Jay Rodriguez, is a former political consultant and fund raiser who's raising his own funds through clever merchandising. "Humor sells," says Mr. Rodriguez. "In the Gulf war, 'No blood for oil' didn't sell." Among the bestsellers, says Rodriguez, are the Richard Nixon T-shirts "He's Tan, Rested, and Ready" with a black-and-white picture of RMN and the logo "Nixon in '92.We can't keep it in stock, says Rodriguez. And in bumper-sticker form, the other leader is the slogan "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm," which Rodriguez says is "the dominant sticker inside the Beltway" where true Washington politicoes live. The environmentally correct T-shirts with the message "Don't Say Goodbye...." above faces of a cheetah , dolphin, and keel-billed toucan are top sellers, as are rain forest and ocean T-shirts. There's something for everyone at Politically Correct Clothing, even a PC button on the Columbus legacy: a red circle and red line through the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria plus the slogan: "500 years of racism, oppression, and stolen land." Some of his pro-choice buttons, bumper stickers, T-shirts, etc. prompt "a certain percentage of people to come in and yell at me" about selling them, he says, showing me the bullet holes that appeared in the window the morning after a display. "Every T-shirt I sell reflects something I believe in," he says. "I'm a progressive liberal; the products pretty much reflect that." The store's brochure reads: "Politically Correct Clothing is an ethical business that donates l0 percent of its profits to peace, environmental, and social justice groups." Not all of his PC stuff is for everybody: "Friends don't let friends vote Republican"; a Bush/Duke '92 T-shirt says "Do the white thing" in blue letters; "Remain Calm, Everything Is Under Control" with a Dan Quayle picture. Others are less politically partisan: "Don't call me girl"; "Poverty Is Violence"; "Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open"; and "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Rodriguez says T-shirts are a form of media. "I think the bodies are billboards and my goal is to put everyone in a 'Save the Planet' or 'Save the Seals' shirt rather than in brand-name tennis shoes, or clothes that advertise beer or cigarettes."