MER­CHAN­DISE SALES SKY­ROCKET FOR PRO­POSED SPACE FORCE

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY S.A. MILLER AND BEN WOLFGANG

Pres­i­dent Trump’s plan for a mil­i­tary Space Force has not got­ten off the ground yet, but it al­ready has launched a mer­chan­dis­ing craze of Space Force-themed T-shirts, cof­fee mugs, spi­ral note­books and throw pil­lows.

In West Virginia, sales of Space Force ap­parel is help­ing fi­nance the Wood County Repub­li­can Party, which can’t keep enough of its home­made Space Force T-shirts in stock.

“They’re sell­ing very quickly. Any­thing that says Trump’s Space Force — it’s kitschy, it’s fun. It’s not what the old peo­ple are buy­ing, but the young peo­ple? They think it is fun,” said Rob Cornelius, chair­man of the Wood County Repub­li­can Party.

The shirts are on sale for $15 at the party head­quar­ters or on its web­site.

The craze reaches far be­yond pol­i­tics. On­line re­tail­ers such as Ama­zon, Etsy, TeePublic and Pop Threads of­fer a va­ri­ety of Space Force mer­chan­dise.

The shirts, hood­ies, hats, mugs, patches and stick­ers are em­bla­zoned with myr­iad Space Force lo­gos and graph­ics.

“From a brand­ing per­spec­tive, it al­most feels like some­thing out of a Hol­ly­wood movie, and why not?” said Sandy Ru­bin­stein, CEO of the ad­ver­tis­ing firm DXa­gency. “It could be a huge brand.”

The idea seems to res­onate strong­est among mil­len­ni­als, who are ac­cus­tomed to rapid changes in tech­nol­ogy and cul­ture.

“Now we look at all the fu­tur­is­tic things like self-driv­ing cars that we thought were only on ‘The Jet­sons.’ Maybe it is time for this,” said Ms. Ru­bin­stein. “Why not be as­pi­ra­tional with a Space Force?”

Some items poke fun at the idea, de­pict­ing Mr. Trump’s face peer­ing out of an as­tro­naut hel­met or in­clude the laser gun sound ef­fect “pew-pew.”

The cover of a Space Force spi­ral note­book from re­tailer Red­bub­ble de­picts Mr. Trump and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence as TV’s “Star Trek” char­ac­ters Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock, re­spec­tively.

Other mer­chan­dis­ers take the idea se­ri­ously and em­bla­zon items with au­then­tic-look­ing mil­i­tary in­signias.

A shirt from TeePublic in­cor­po­rates a stars-and-stripes mo­tif with the acro­nym USSF.

The pri­vately owned White House Gift Shop of­fers a dec­o­ra­tive coin in its His­toric Mo­ments in World His­tory Coin Col­lec­tion, the fourth in the se­ries cel­e­brat­ing Mr. Trump’s pres­i­dency.

The coin, which is val­ued at $100 but was re­cently avail­able on pre­order for $49, com­mem­o­rates Mr. Trump’s or­der on June 18 for the Pen­tagon to es­tab­lish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. mil­i­tary.

Mr. Trump fre­quently her­alds that or­der as a high point of his pres­i­dency. He is push­ing for­ward the Space Force project de­spite ob­jec­tions from po­lit­i­cal foes and Pen­tagon naysay­ers who quib­ble that it is too ex­pen­sive, im­prac­ti­cal and un­nec­es­sary.

Whether folly or des­tiny, Space Force has sparked the coun­try’s imag­i­na­tion.

Still, Amer­i­cans are di­vided over whether the U.S. needs a Space Force to pro­tect space-based as­sets. A re­cent Econ­o­mist/YouGov poll shows 38 per­cent in sup­port and 42 per­cent op­posed.

As with most other is­sues these days, the opin­ions split along party lines. A ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans (66 per­cent) think the Space Force is a good idea, and a ma­jor­ity of Democrats (64 per­cent) think it’s a bad idea. In­de­pen­dents are di­vided neatly 36 per­cent for and 39 per­cent against, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey.

For re­tail­ers, the mer­chan­dise can ap­peal to those who think the Space Force idea is a joke and those dream­ing of some­day en­list­ing.

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