Vendors lined the roads to theservice hangar at Airborne Maintenance & Engineering selling merchandise for the Donald Trump rally in Ohio on Nov. 4. A few booths had the traditional hats, banners and T-shirts sporting “Trump for President” or “Trump, Pence 2016,” but much of the unofficial merchandise branded for Trump centered around profane, offensive dialogue.

Whether it was the “Trump That Bitch!” button or the “Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica”

Trump supporters wait in line at the security checkpoint to enter the rally.
Trump supporters wait in line at the security checkpoint to enter the rally.

T-shirt that caught the passerby’s attention, it was obvious that this was an election and a campaign strategy unlike others.

Inside the rally, supports overwhelmingly held simple signs that read “Women for Trump” or “Make America Great Again!” all with small type at the bottom read “Paid for by Donald J. Trump.” The stark difference between the clean, official campaign posters inside and the supporter-driven merchandise outside says a lot about Trump’s campaign strategy.

It is an even bigger difference when compared to the Clinton campaign offices. Windows are lined with carefully crafted posters sporting the “H” logo and a simple message straight from the campaign strategist. Walls inside are lined with hand-colored “H” handouts from children. The office is filled with official merchandise including stickers, buttons and specifically branded for the important swing state of Ohio. Her supporters showed up to the offices not in their own hand-made t-shirts or gear stamped with internet memes but in official Hillary Clinton gear straight from the campaign.

While you can say that comparing unofficial merchandise from a rally to official merchandise inside a campaign office isn’t fair, it illustrates the branding strategy that Trump chose during this election. He chose to have no ground campaigning and therefore unofficial merchandise became the brand of his campaign.

Reporter Don Gonyea at NPR suggests the profane merchandise is a reaction to the profanity of the candidate. In his article, “F-Bomb On A T-Shirt: At Trump Rallies, Profanity Comes Onstage And Off” he says Trump understands that his language “can pack a punch.”

A merchandise vendor sells yard signs outside a Donald Trump rally in Wilmington, Ohio.
A merchandise vendor sells yard signs outside a Donald Trump rally in Wilmington, Ohio.

Gonyea says that in all his years covering a presidential candidate he has never had to bleep out a candidate’s speech until this year.

New York Magazine came out with an article called “The Most Misogynistic Gear Spotted at Trump Rallies” where there was no shortage of curse words. “Donald Trump finally someone with balls,” “Don’t be a pussy, vote for Trump,” “Better to grab a p**** than be one,” were among the slogans on signs, t-shirts and buttons at the rallies.

Writer Claire Landsbaum wrote about Trump supporters: “When it comes to insulting Donald Trump’s female opponent, their knack for misogynistic signage and T-shirt designs is almost uncanny.”

At a rally in New Hampshire, a supporter held up a “Trump that Bitch” bumper sticker so it was in view of the camera. Trump saw the sticker and visually smirked, laughed a little and moved on with his speech.

Trump said that only that could happen “at a Trump rally,” and then went on to say to the sticker holder “’Sir, you’re reprimanded, OK?’ he said. ‘But we’re not throwing him out, right folks?’”

While the Trump campaign never officially supported the merchandise or used hate speech in their official merchandise, they didn’t condemn it either.

-Katherine Sproles