In the months leading up to Election Day, Hillary Clinton swag was everywhere. There it was, on the backs of women like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry. There it was, being sold in collaboration with established designers like Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch. There it was, over on Etsy as independent sellers capitalized on this historic moment.
And there it was on Nov. 8th, on the backs of Allie Litwak and Irene Scher, who were more than stoked to wear T-shirts that read "Nasty Woman" and "Nasty Women Unite" as they cast their votes for Hillary Clinton in New York City.
"I was very empowered," Litwak recalled. "I skipped to the polls because I was excited to vote in that shirt. It was like a big 'F U' to everyone."
"When I wore stuff like that, it built a sense of camaraderie," Scher added. "When I'd go out in it, I'd see people looking at the logo and nodding and smiling. It revealed to me very quickly how many women felt the same about Hillary."
They were far from the only ones who thought to grab their best HRC merch to wear on the big day. Even men were getting into the spirit, with Brandon Litman wearing a black, long-sleeve shirt with "Hillary" written across the front as he watched the election results roll in. "I was proud," Litman said. "It was sort of like wearing your sports team shirt on game day."
We all know what happened next.
For women like Litwak, the choice to not wear the shirt again was obvious. "It only really reminds me of election night, and this sense of disappointment," as she explained. But for others, the question is far more difficult to answer. Continue to wear — or not continue to wear — that Hillary merch? On one hand, it may feel like a huge bummer; on the other, it may feel empowering.
To wear or not to wear: For Michelle*, her story is much like Litwak's. After the election, she was reluctant to don her Clinton apparel.
Previously, she'd proudly worn a T-shirt with a smiling and gleeful Hillary Clinton on it while she watched the debates — and when she ran the New York City Marathon, she wore a T-shirt of her own making that read "#I'mWithHer" on the front and "I'm running against Trump" on the back.
Now, however, she says that she doesn't want to wear the shirts, for fear that she'd come off as someone living in a fantasy. "I'm not one of those people who think the Electoral College is going to overturn him," she said. These days, the only item of merch she regularly shows off is a simple sticker taped to her laptop.
But for many other Clinton fans, the desire to show off their continued support of the nominee took on a renewed importance post-election.
"If anything, my feelings intensified," Scher said. "Now when I wear my 'Not My President' shirt and the Nasty Woman shirt, it almost means more. I think it's the wrong idea to take a back seat and resign ourselves. It's a symbol of continuing to fight for it."
Graphic designer Alena Jaffe, who designed two T-shirts for the website I Feel Like Hillz — one with the word "Hillary" in a heavy metal-inspired font and another "Nasty Woman" T-shirt and hat, which simply has the word "Nasty Woman" stitched in white and black — likened it to a brand breaking up.
"It's like band merch. Your band may break up, but you don't throw away the T-shirt," Jaffe said.
And for others, like Lesley Parks, who wore Jaffe's Nasty Woman hat while watching the election results roll in, wearing the shirts now bears an element of badassery.
"I still feel good when I put it on," Parks said. "As sad as I am to know that we have a really difficult few years ahead of us, I also feel built up by all the awesome women in our lives. There's a lot of pure badass-ness that comes with wearing the merch after the fact."
An evolving industry: Of course, none of these people would be wearing these T-shirts if not for the massive Hillary Clinton swag industry that was birthed within the past year. While Donald Trump's supporters donned their signature "Make America Great Again" caps, Clinton supporters had access to a plethora of timely, cheeky merch, from Nasty Woman hats to images of a younger, stylish Clinton printed on T-shirts.
Now though, the innovative industry is facing questions of its own. How do they make the question of "to still wear or not still wear Clinton merch" an easy one to answer?
For Curtis Thomas, the founder of House of Hillary, the answer lies with a broadened definition of what it means to be a Hillary Clinton supporter — from a person who is supportive of Clinton, to a person who's not giving up.
After the election, House of Hillary launched a collection of Obama-supporting duds, as well as ones that offer a more subtle version of #ImStillWithHer branding, like this "HRC" T-shirt — both of which continue to sell wel.
"It's this sort of 'It doesn't end here' mentality," Thomas said in an interview. "Hillary Clinton is more than a woman, more than a candidate. She's going to be a symbol for how much work we need to go forward. It's this idea that you feel like you want to continue."
I Feel Like Hillz founder Molly Smith has found that her customers are now more keen to the idea of supporting progressive and feminist values than one particular candidate as well.
Before the election, her most popular items included a black T-shirt with the word "Hillary," in black metal-esque font — the same that Litman wore on election night. Now, "Nasty Woman" is its biggest hit, along with "Madam President," which could stand not just for Hillary's candidacy but also as support for the prospect of a future female president.
"It's a natural progression for us that's a bit more cause based and rooted in the progressive," Smith said. "People want to keep this hope alive, and this movement alive. It's a subtle symbol of resistance."
Still, many shop owners agree that people don't want to stop supporting Clinton just yet. After all, she stands as much more than just a candidate who didn't win.
"I think there's going to be a seamless transition where she goes from former presidential candidate to feminist icon," Becca Lee Funk, founder of the feminist clothing site The Outrage, said. "That's what we're seeing with our sales. We have a shirt that just says 'Thank You, Hillary' that people now love."
So it's not like the feminist apparel industry that Clinton sparked is going away any time soon. In fact, to some, it only shows signs of strengthening as the American population continues to reckon with this election.
"I think people right now have this just drive to be involved in politics more than ever before and that sense of willingness is really awesome," Jaffe said. "I think we can start gearing these shirts towards very things that are not related to Hillary but related to this election, this administration and what's to come."
*Pseudonyms have been used to allow the subject to speak freely about sensitive topics.