The upcoming presidential election is looking more precarious than ever, as the current President has taken his bid to stay in office to new undemocratic heights by opposing additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) — a move that effectively sabotages mail-in voting. However, the USPS is getting a surprising and much-needed boost from merch sales, proving that the age of hype can be a good thing.
USPS recently launched a line of merch in a bid to raise funds and keep the organization afloat. On the surface it looks like pretty standard stuff, including stamp offerings, tote bags, printed tees, and mail carrier dog costumes. However, according to WWD, breakout support from Gen-Zers has turned these items into something much bigger. Intent on saving democracy – and the reliable Postal Service, which every hype beast knows is a cheaper option than FedEx – young people have made the USPS "cool."
The USPS hype illustrates not only the deplorable state of the current administration but also underscores the crux of Gen-Z activism, where social media clout and streetwear sensibilities can be mobilized for good. On TikTok, creators are creating hype for the Postal Service merch, with more than 734,000 views and counting for #SaveUSPS, and #SaveThePostOffice garnering more than 270,000 views.
Teens have effectively turned humble USPS merch into veritable grails. Notably, the long-sleeve, cropped USPS tee has taken on a life of its own – and become sold out in the process – in a move that emulates the Vetements' trajectory of turning merch into fashion.
The rise of USPS merch recalls Demna Gvasalia's DHL creations for the fashion house, which used a sharp understanding of internet culture and irony to make everyday, working class uniforms cool. It's a trend that has been followed by Virgil Abloh with Ikea, and even more radically by KFC bucket hats. With USPS, Gen-Z is propelling that trend into more meaningful territory.
Eventhough, it's clear the USPS merch isn't hot enough to rival the aforementioned examples, in the current political climate it has the potential to go there. Even so, buying stamps and bland totes is still a good way to support an important cause. And if you're really in it for the hype, keep your eyes on Depop and Grailed where the infamous long-sleeve is sure to pop up any day now.
If you're worried about democracy in the USA – as you should be – take a page out of the Gen-Z book and put your money where your mouth is. Head over to the USPS store to shop some goods before they sell out.