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Do Democrats and Republicans Actually Shop Differently?

According to some recent studies, yes.

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

The greater a politician's visibility, the richer the opportunity to analyze the meaning coded in their styling. This election cycle, plenty of articles have been published about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's fashion and beauty choices, including on this website. But what about the clothing choices of their supporters? As we've seen in the fracturing of Republicans around the question of endorsing Trump, a candidate doesn't necessarily represent the rest of his or her party.

In late October, Racked received two media alerts about studies comparing style preferences of everyday Republicans and Democrats.

Here's a fun finding from a report released by the consignment website Swap.com: People who live in a county that went red in 2012 are 80 percent more likely to wear Bermuda shorts than their liberal counterparts, while shoppers hailing from blue counties are 421 percent more likely to wear pleather.

Lest it stop at wearable plastic, Swap.com also found that Republicans are 23 percent more likely than their Democrat counterparts to slip into footed pajamas. At this point, you should be picturing Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich in bodysuits of the "Oops!... I Did It Again" and butt-flap varieties.

Another survey released by the e-commerce provider Onestop found that among roughly 300,000 women aged 18 to 34, 26 percent of Republican respondents said they were willing to spend more than they could afford on the clothing they want, compared to 14 percent of Independents and just 9 percent of Democrats.

Of Democrats, 30 percent said they liked to make a “unique statement” with their style, versus 31 percent of Independents, and 20 percent of Republicans.

This information certainly isn't absolute. Swap.com compared purchases made through its website between August 2012 and October 2016 against county-level data from the 2012 election to determine the likelihood that someone living in a given area would make certain dressing choices. The site didn't ask shoppers which candidate they actually voted for, and on top of that, a rep says that most of the company's purchase data comes from 2016 because of its own growth trajectory.

Still, it's fun to mess around with, because A) everyone loves to sling a juicy statistic into their friends's Facebook feeds, and B) this sort of report elicits a warm, totally arbitrary feeling of belonging in the same way an online quiz that sorts you into a Hogwarts house does. You might not have paid your blue jeans much mind before, but knowing that people in your party are 44 percent more likely to wear them might encourage you to own them a bit more fully. In this scenario, by the way, you are a Republican.

The flip side of inclusion is othering those who aren't voting the same way as you. That, more than anything, feels like the takeaway of these studies, and one that meshes nicely with our polarized political climate. Some of the findings can be used as lazy mockery: Dems are 69 percent more likely to wear jeggings (ugh!), while Republicans are apparently 36 percent more prone to wear cargo shorts (blech!).

Reading these studies — which, to be clear, very much serve as marketing for the companies that released them — I thought back to covering the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia this summer. Did the uncredentialed people milling about the public areas outside the two event centers really dress all that differently? To an extent, yes.

Eliminate from the picture all the obvious political cosplayers at the conventions, like the cartoonist Vishavjit Singh wearing a Captain America suit and matching blue turban at the RNC and the man dressed as the titular hero of Where's Waldo? in Philadelphia. What remained were those wearing what could be reasonably pass as everyday clothing, albeit special occasion styling: T-shirts supporting or detracting a candidate, the likeness of Bernie Sanders sketched in pen on an upper arm, or Trump's name spelled out in a manicure.

Certainly, there were more khakis at the RNC and grungier looks from the massive Sanders fanbase at the DNC. Bright, patriotic tones versus muddied hues and tie-dyed swirls. But like an imperfect study, the scenes at the conventions provide skewed results, since these events draw only the most vocal and impassioned of citizens.

That said, people's taste in clothing does vary on a regional, state, and city level. New Yorkers' predilection for dark tones is a very real thing, the team at Cuyana once told me, while Californians are more eager to play with lively colors. There's a reason I feel out of place every time I visit my family in the suburbs of Boston, and it's not just the absence of annoyingly highbrow coffee shops within a seven-mile radius.

Wouldn't it be cool, just this once, to look at these studies and think, "Dang, I wear blazers, even though Democrats are 30 percent more likely to — maybe we aren't that different?" Or, "Whoa, I also wear a coat, even though Republicans are 142 percent more probable to do so."

Although, hold up, don’t most people wear coats? Really, this just means that more Republicans have bought secondhand coats from this one particular vendor. Maybe take it with a grain of salt.

Watch: The politics of pockets