The White House aspirations of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, have inspired a new underwear company that mixes pop culture and politics.
"Bernie's Briefs" launched just last week, and is the brainchild of Alexandra MacLean, Nick Sherman, and Todd Bailey. The three work at KSE Partners, a strategic communications and government affairs firm based in Montpelier, and said they developed Bernie's Briefs as a fun sideline business.
The underwear, in both men's and ladies' styles, is screen printed with a simple black-and-white line drawing of Sanders' face, and the message "Feel the Bern," which has become a rallying cry on social media for Sanders supporters. Each pair costs $15 plus shipping and handling.
"It's just an opportunity to bring something fun into what is otherwise a very serious matter," MacLean said of the internet-based mail-order business.
The business insisted this should not be seen as some sort of insult to the self-described Democratic Socialist, whose campaign for president has really elevated concerns of income inequality, the struggles of the middle class, environmental matters, and what Sanders has called the corrupting influence of big-money on politics.
The company founders said they admire Sanders for his passion on those serious issues, and MacLean told necn she feels his presence in the presidential race has been very good for the political process and for what Sanders has done to try to represent more Americans’ voices.
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MacLean also said she has appreciated seeing more of the "lighter side" of Sanders in recent weeks, through appearances on late night TV and talk shows like "Ellen," where Sanders responded to a question from host Ellen DeGeneres and revealed he prefers briefs over boxers.
MacLean said a now-famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch, in which Larry David plays Sanders and decries how billionaires have three or four pairs of underwear but he only has one, was what convinced her and her colleagues to strike while the iron was hot and launch "Bernie's Briefs."
MacLean told necn that sales are picking up, and orders have come in from across the country, but mostly from the northeast, at this point.
"This campaign is exciting, and they want to show support for him and his issues," MacLean said of her customers, whom she described as Sanders supporters. "I think it's just a little bit of fun, and they appreciate that."
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Beavin & Son's in Montpelier is handling the screen printing of the underwear.
"I think it could take off," Sheila Beavin told necn, noting this is the first time the company has ever silk screened men's underwear. "It's a great novelty, and now's the time to have it."
But on the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans need underwear too. So what about those customers? Could Bernie's Briefs expand to put faces of other presidential candidates on underwear, maybe by adding a line of “Trump's Trunks?”
"I think at this point, we're going to stick with Bernie," MacLean said, laughing at the notion of having a whole line of presidential underwear. "He's a Vermonter, we're Vermonters, and that's really why we're doing this."
MacLean said 10 percent of the proceeds from her cheeky business will benefit the Yellow Ribbon Fund, with donations made in the name of Bernie Sanders. That charity supports injured service members.