History is rich in movements, campaigns and causes. Groups of people have come together to challenge the status quo and make the world a better place. From parades, events, rallies, and protests people have convened to drive change. From the suffragettes to civil rights, from Black Lives Matter, from the Climate Strike to recent marches in support of reproductive rights, people have taken a stand in the face of injustice. And custom branded merchandise has been there to help bring movements together, identify supporters and raise funds.
In this article, we’ll explore how symbolic clothing and branded merchandise can unite the movements and causes we care about.
How branded merch can unite movements
Movements wouldn’t go far without public support and awareness. A great way to do that is by having a way to identify and connect people to the cause. It can be wearing a shirt or using other items with your cause’s logo, colours, or messaging.
Branded merch helps make your cause more visible in the community. When you consider merch like symbolic clothing, coloured shirts, flags, or banners, they can also create great photo ops to increase your visibility adn impact on traditional and social media.
Types of merch used to raise awareness of causes
A shirt is one of the most common merch items to forward your movement or cause. It’s easy for people to wear and it’s quite noticeable on the street. Whenever someone sees your movement-branded shirt, they’re reminded of the cause or organization and are often reminded to take action or to donate in support of the cause.
Those who wish to support your cause, but can’t afford to purchase your shirts, can still show your colours to show their solidarity and support – be it a pinback button, bandana or sticker.
When choosing symbolic clothing or merch for your movement, select ones aligned with your messaging. For example, if you are promoting an environmental cause, selling one-time-use branded coffee cups is not on brand. Instead, a reusable mug with your organization’s logo is better suited. Look for zero-waste or carbon-neutral merch whenever possible.
Other ideas for branded eco-friendly merch to promote your movement or cause include recycled pinback buttons (page 6/7), mugs and tumblers, lanyards, backpacks, and anything that may be on-brand for your cause.
Another idea is to take old campaigns and awareness vinyl banners and upcycle them into other items like bags, shirts, and hats. It’s a great way to keep more of your raised funds into your organization’s initiatives rather than spending on new merch later.
Movements and activism examples
Many movements raise funds to support research and outreach efforts for their cause. They may sell branded merchandise with their colours, logos, and graphics.
Here are some examples of movements and causes that use symbolism, logos, and phrases on merch to raise awareness and solicit for change:
Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters
Since 2021, September 30th has been known as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day recognizes and honours children lost and those who survived residential schools in Canada. The phrase “Every Child Matters” refers to those children and the many whose graves have yet to be found. On this day, we wear the colour orange to keep this struggle top of mind, to support reconciliation, and to create local and global awareness of the impacts of residential schools.
Orange shirts are sold by the organization Orangeshirtday.org and indigenous makers in the community. In this campaign, they recommend shirts bought directly from them or local indigenous makers so proceeds from these sales can support those directly impacted by the residential school programs, and be sure you’re not supporting vendors looking to turn a profit off stolen indigenous artwork while posing to represent Indigenous causes. If purchasing orange shirts directly from your reputable vendor for your team, we suggest taking the next step after representing the cause – to do the work to educate your team and donate to programs that support those affected by the residential schools.
The Green Bandana (image shown earlier in this article) has been a known international symbol for reproductive rights. The movement of wearing a green bandana has its roots in Argentina, where the “Green Wave” was coined to symbolize the right to legal, safe and accessible abortion. It initially started in Latin America, but this movement has crossed international borders, especially in the United States, where the fight for reproductive rights is at its precipice. Fairware also did its part in joining this movement, creating these tote bags to show our support for reproductive rights.
The Pussyhat Project
The Pussyhat Project is a global social movement raising awareness of women’s issues and advancing human rights. They use the symbol of the pussyhat to represent solidarity for women’s rights and political resistance. They encourage women to make these hats, wear them, and share these hats with others.
This is another example of a symbol being widely associated with a cause.
The sunflower is a global symbol for those with non-visible disabilities. These include autism, chronic pain, learning difficulties, mental health conditions, mobility, speech impairments, and sensory loss such as speech, sight loss, hearing loss, or deafness. It’s a visible yet discrete cue of the invisible struggle and extra support someone may need.
A popular branded merch this organization sells is the lanyards. The Sunflower Lanyard is a discreet sign that the wearer (or somebody with them) has a hidden disability and may require additional assistance.
An awareness ribbon brings awareness to a specific cause or movement. Some colours represent multiple causes depending on when you wear them. Some examples of ribbon colours include:
- Pink: Breast Cancer Awareness
- Red: HIV/AIDS Awareness
- Orange: Leukemia Awareness
- Yellow: Suicide Prevention
- Green: Mental Health Awareness
- Teal: PTSD Awareness
- Blue: Parkinson’s Disease Awareness
- Purple: Alzheimer’s Awareness
- White: Peace
- Black: Gang Prevention
Images of these coloured ribbons are also used on branding merch like hats, lanyards, shirts, bracelets, and bags to show support.
Pink Shirt Day
Pink Shirt Day in February raises awareness of childhood bullying. While many wear their own pink shirts that day, the organization also sells their own pink shirts, and the proceeds go towards anti-bullying programs in Western Canada. The pink shirts symbolize anti-bullying initiatives and help increase awareness and recognition of their cause. They’ve sold over 467,000 shirts and raised $2.68 million.
Every year pride events and awareness take place around the world. The rainbow flag and colours have become widely known as a symbol for the 2SLGBTQAI+ community, likely in large part to its widespread usage of that symbol in the community.
We’ve curated a list of great eco-friendly Pride merchandise to celebrate and raise awareness of 2SLGBTQAI+ community issues.
How to raise awareness for your movement through merch
Do you have a movement or cause that you want to raise money and awareness for? Consider using eco-friendly, branded merch to offer to donors or to sell in exchange for donations for your cause. Fairware has many branded merch options that can be customized for your movement.
Contact us today, and we’ll help you find the best, eco-conscious promotional products to raise money for your cause.