On a Friday afternoon, I found myself slipping into a pair of Ivanka Trump grey work slacks in a poorly lit Marshalls dressing room in lower Manhattan. A summer Friday shopping excursion wasn't supposed to leave me feeling so conflicted.
Finding pants that fit well is always a struggle for me — I assume I'm not alone. As an act of self preservation, I hardly ever try on random brands because I can predict exactly how it will end: in complete frustration.
So, I was pretty shocked when I pulled on the Ivanka Trump pants to find they actually fit well. Like, really well.
My first thought was, Wait, this can't be right.
Sure, the fabric was low quality, but for $30 slacks that look cool and professional, I could probably overlook the mildly scratchy fabric. That is, if I didn't have a strong moral opposition to the Ivanka Trump brand.
As I stared at the pants trying to find some aspect that didn't fit (Do the pockets flare out? No, those are smooth. Do they ride up too high? Nope, just right.), I reminded myself that Ivanka has positioned herself as a moderating force in the White House, but hasn't actually delivered any results on paid family leave, LGBTQ rights, or climate change.
I'm not the only one avoiding her clothes to make a political stance, either. After President Trump was elected, the social campaign #GrabYourWallet encouraged people who disagree with the Trumps' politics to boycott all their products.
It's pretty common for people to stop supporting brands with values that differ from their own, Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's business school, told Refinery29. Reed, who specialises in how values shape purchasing decisions, explained, consumers can sometimes find a loophole to feel like they've maintained their moral standards and still buy the item they want by separating the tarnished figure or upsetting incident in their mind.
So, in this situation, I could try to convince myself that Ivanka stepping down from her company means her identity is now separate from the brand. Or simply that her brand isn't about politics.
"If I'm unable to psychologically decouple those, then I'm going to have to abandon the brand," Reed said. "It's a rationalisation process that consumers are engaged in."
I found myself in the middle of this internal debate in the dingy Marshalls dressing room.
I'm not naive enough to think my personal boycott of Ivanka Trump clothes would make an impact on the success of her business (in fact, that's the reason why many people have trouble boycotting in the first place). But I still don't want to rep a brand started by (and sharing a name with) someone I believe is enabling a president who has threatened the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and other marginalised groups.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem like the bigger #GrabYourWallet campaign is working either. Ivanka's brand isn't actually suffering. In fact, G-III Apparel Group (the company that manufactures the clothing) reported a $17.9 million increase in net sales of Ivanka Trump products in 2016, according to an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Is this because the clothes fit so well? Or was the boycott just unsuccessful?
Possibly both. The thing is, people like me boycotting Ivanka's brand won't have much of an impact because I wasn't an Ivanka Trump customer before her dad became president. My dislike for her as a public figure has certainly increased in recent months, but I was never shopping the brand in the first place.
"In highly politicized environments, people know where they stand and know what they’re going to do," Reed said. "[Boycotters are] essentially talking inside of a bubble and singing to a choir. You don’t really see new movements in terms of what’s changing."
Still, knowing the boycott isn't achieving much couldn't convince me to buy the pants. I mean, imagine the excessive dodging I'd need to act out every time someone asked where I got my cool new slacks. And I wasn't going to start lying about pants.
Ultimately I decided the Ivanka pants were not worth the awkward situations and subsequent therapy bills I saw myself racking up because of the $30 purchase. I left Marshalls empty-handed and went home to eat ice cream in bed, sans pants.