In today’s politically charged climate, an act as seemingly innocent as wearing a pair of jeans can make a powerful statement.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal published a report detailing the political views of prominent brands’ customer bases—and Levi’s and Wrangler were the two denim brands highlighted.
According to the report, Levi’s customers in the U.S. are increasingly left-leaning: from 2004 to 2018, Levi’s customer base became three percent more Democratic. Considering the brand is based in a city as historically liberal as San Francisco, the numbers aren’t necessarily surprising—though it’s not just a matter of geography. The brand is likely popular with Democratic voters because of its stance on issues such as gun control and immigration.
After a customer accidentally shot himself in the foot inside a Levi’s store in 2016, CEO Chip Bergh publicly denounced bringing guns into any of the company’s locations. Soon after, the brand backed up this stance financially and began supporting organizations dedicated to ending gun violence. Just a few months ago, Bergh drafted a letter signed by 200 CEOs asking the Senate for stricter gun control.
Similarly, Bergh publicly spoke out about President Trump’s travel ban that blocked a number of individuals from entering the U.S Some leaders feel it’s necessary to choose a side in these matters, even if—as in Bergh’s case—doing so results in death threats.
“People of all ages, particularly younger consumers, expect a brand to take a stand,” Procter & Gamble’s CEO David Taylor told The Wall Street Journal.
On the opposite side of the aisle, WSJ reported that Wrangler has a larger Republican following. From 2004 to 2018, Wrangler’s customer base grew more Republican by 13 percent, according to the report. While this could be attributed to the brand’s emphasis on its cowboy heritage and wide appeal in rural markets, Wrangler’s parent company Kontoor Brands denies its involvement in politics.
“Our brands have not and will not employ commercial or marketing strategies based on consumers’ political party affiliations, nor do we believe that those affiliations are any of our business,” Kontoor Brand CEO Scott Baxter said.
However, even if Wrangler’s customer base skews Republican, the numbers show it may not be in the brand’s best interest to reflect their political stance. According to WSJ’s research, which studied 2,528 brands, products and stores, the number of products that skewed Republican declined from 214 to 153 from 2004 to 2018. Essentially, publicly leaning right may not be good for business.
Whether or not brands choose to participate politically, the message is clear: consumers take note. By regularly wearing denim brands known for their ethical and sustainable practices, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle single-handedly propelled jeans companies into fame in 2019. And according to Lyst’s “Year in Fashion 2019” report, politics will only become more prominent in fashion as we near the U.S. election.
“With the upcoming U.S. elections,” the report noted, “we predict to see even more political fashion statements from politicians, brands and retailers in 2020.”