For some, longing for the Reagan-Bush era is still strong — even though they weren’t even alive to experience it.
The death of the 41st president has highlighted the curious cult popularity of swag from the 1984 presidential campaign. That year, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush swept 49 out of 50 states for a second term during the height of the Cold War.
The appeal of Reagan-Bush swag dovetails with a wave of retro nostalgia that has swept through pop culture in the last decade.
The trend has been written about in thought pieces and documented in TV and movie remakes, including “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Dynasty” and “Heathers.” It also hit a post-modern, self-referential peak with “Stranger Things,” which featured a Reagan-Bush yard sign.
Fashion has been revisiting the decade of excess for the past few years, but this fall’s lines featured even more ’80s throwbacks, including jewel tones, big blazers, combat boots and sparkly accessories.
But it’s also harkening back to a kinder era in politics, some say.
“We are in a strong retro cycle. I think the Reagan-Bush shirts reflect a less extreme GOP,” Matt Powell, an analyst at market research firm the NPD Group, told ABC News.
Powell said that the trend is also making its way through Asia.
But why is Reagan-Bush swag such a status item? The trend is particularly associated with fraternities, especially in the South. Bush-Reagan t-shirts are a constant bestseller on the popular Greek site Rowdy Gentleman.
‘We were born in the mid-80s most of us in the company, graduated college in the late 2000s … Both Bushes just seemed cool, someone you’d want to have a beer with and their political pride was super respected.’
“Conservatism generally is fraternity-related and the Bush era is popular in Greek life. We know we sell a lot to Greek kids,” Matt Cisneros, senior vice president of sales and business development at Rowdy Gentleman, told ABC News.
“We launched the shirt in 2010 or 2011 as an homage to a cool era. It wasn’t political,” Cisneros said. “It’s a cool factor thing, a historically cool thing to tie ourselves to, it’s not about politics present-day. Everyone was pro-America. It’s been kind of a cool staple since.”
Since George H.W. Bush’s death on Friday, retailers have seen an uptick in sales, including Rowdy Gentleman, Cisneros said. Ebay also said there was an uptick in Bush and Reagan-Bush ’84 memorabilia searches since the weekend.
To Cisneros, who is in his mid-30s, the popularity of the era and its presidents isn’t remarkable. Perhaps it’s because he grew up in Austin and went to the same high school as Bush’s granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager.
“We were born in the mid-80s — most of us in the company — and graduated college in the late 2000s,” he said. “Both Bushes just seemed cool, someone you’d want to have a beer with and their political pride was super respected.”
In fact, Cisneros said he sent a batch of T-shirts to both Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush, and received thank-you notes from both. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sported a Rowdy Gentleman vintage Reagan Bush on the campaign trail.
“The Rowdy Gentleman tee shirts are fantastic! They fit perfectly, and I love the variety you sent. So many thanks for those and for the terrific cup sleeves,” George H.W. Bush wrote to Cisneros on Feb. 3, 2015.
His son, George W. Bush, who doesn’t drink, also wrote a note, but referred to the “cup sleeves” by their college nickname: “koozies.”
“Thank you for your kind note and for the assortment of Rowdy Gentleman t-shirts and koozies. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and patriotism,” the 43rd president wrote.
For his part, Jeb Bush sported a Rowdy Gentleman vintage Reagan-Bush t-shirt under a dress shirt during his own presidential campaign in 2016.
Cisneros said the store is not political or partisan. They don’t sell any Trump MAGA hats, for example, but do have a “Trump-Kanye 2020” and a “Space Force” T-shirt for sale on the site.
“It’s to be comical, we’re not pushing an agenda. We’re not like sitting here supporting Trump,” he added.