LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Fashion makes a political statement: Obama, McCain fans wear their feelings on their sleeves (and faces and feet ...)

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

It was an unconventional convention wardrobe. Her handmade dress of patriotic colors attracted the attention of national and international media at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, and as a result, her image was published worldwide.

Hernando resident Kelly Jacobs, 49, a Mississippi delegate, supported presidential candidate Barack Obama in the frock that featured a peace sign on front and an Ole Miss Rebel on back.

"Because I'm opposed to the war, and I have two sons they are always trying to get to join the military, I decided to make a peace dress," she said. "It was a really fun dress to wear, and whenever I find an opportunity, I like to wear it again."

She wore it Tuesday while leading a voter drive on the University of Mississippi campus, and like Jacobs, other Mississippians are electing to wear their political beliefs. Whether they're standing their ground in flip-flops inspired by Obama or Republican presidential candidate John McCain or bringing the issues into focus with the glasses McCain's running mate Sarah Palin made popular, voters are supporting their candidates with fashion.

Madison resident Cathy Stroud, 49, plans to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket in November. She'll support them wearing Kazuo Kawasaki rimless Style #704 frames, the glasses Palin made trendy.

"I just thought it looked so clean and crisp," said Stroud on Tuesday, while standing in the Ridgeland store Fine Eyes. She recently ordered a pair. "I loved the look Sarah had on TV."

Cleve Barham, owner of Fine Eyes, said others have ordered the glasses that retail for $375. "Before I had this frame in stock, I had a list of eight people who called wanting the Sarah Palin frame," he said.

When Barham called the company, he learned they were back ordered for a month. "I've been in the business since 1984, and this might be the biggest news that's ever happened in this industry, as far as someone making a pair of glasses exciting," Barham said.

Phyllis Miller, associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising at Mississippi State University, said Palin and Michelle Obama have both emerged as fashion icons. "We haven't had any really strong political fashion icons in the past several years," she said. "Jackie O. and Nancy Reagan stood out, but there's truly not been anybody that really captured people's attention."

Trend bloggers

Some political fashion items have also caught the eye of trend bloggers. The California-based company Hotflops is gaining recognition for its flip-flops featuring small Obama and McCain doll heads.

You can also gauge what's happening with political fashion by visiting, where handmade items are sold. Texas residents Michelle Rocha and Don Garcia sell earrings made of candidate caricature heads under the name DIYorDIE.

State Rep. Greg Snowden, 54, donned a red McCain polo-style shirt Tuesday and matching hat to speak at a Clarke County Republican fundraiser. The self-described "political junkie" attended the Republican Convention in St. Paul, Minn., earlier this year, and brought home a number of items, including a hat, shirt and $100 worth of political buttons for friends who had requested them.

"Conventions are funny things," he said. "You see people who are stockbrokers, bankers, accountants or have some serious job, and when they go to the convention, they'll be wearing an elephant hat. It's fun to go and see what people wear. Apparel is a big deal, no question."

Natchez resident Katisha Lewis, 21, wore an Obama shirt with gold letters that spelled "Change" Monday night while shopping with a friend in Northpark mall in Ridgeland. "I wear it to respect and support Obama," she said. "It's to let him know that we are behind him in whatever he does. He says he's going to make a change, and get money for kids to go to college. He says he's going to bring the troops home, help the poor people and bring in more jobs."

Brandon resident Justin Ponds, 20, heads recruitment for the College Republicans on the Mississippi College campus. He wears T-shirts and hats to support McCain.

"I went out and bought a bumper sticker as soon as he was named the Republican party candidate," Ponds said, adding that he's a fan of shirts with small candidate logos. "They're professional, classy and a good way to support your candidate without seeming overly flashy."

Jacobs said she doesn't mind a little flash, if it helps lure voters. On Tuesday, she helped register 48 voters in two hours at Ole Miss, using her colorful dress as a way to educate the public about the voting process.

"The saddest thing to me is that there are so many students who intend to vote by absentee ballot, and they have absolutely no idea how that happens," said Jacobs, who also owns two jackets covered in political buttons. "I never leave home without my armor," she said.


The Journalism Portfolio of LaReeca Rucker