Conventional style: RNC's gear not likely to start any rumbles

The RNC's merchandise is clearly intended to be clothing by the people, for the people -- even Democrats.

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Two-year-old Matthew Duerr, of Maplewood, made his way down the catwalk as local Republicans unveiled their line of official clothing for the party's national convention this summer in St. Paul. They modeled the outfits, including zubaz pants, at the Mall of America.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores , Star Tribune

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What would prompt Bloomington mayor Gene Winstead to vogue down a Mall of America runway modeling a t-shirt and Zubaz? Nothing short of the unveiling of the official line of Republican National Convention clothing, which took place at the mall's rotunda Tuesday.

Political conventions and fashion have never been compatible running mates. It's all about logos and ball caps and track jackets in a sea of eyeball-tormenting red, white and blue. Which makes this convention's merchandise almost disappointingly tasteful.

Cyndi Lesher, president of the convention's local host committee, said she'd wear the pink polo shirt she had on again.

"It's a decent color," she said.

She's right -- and what kind of quality is that for a convention outfit? The clothes, made by Minnesota company St. Croix Promotions and Retail, sport plenty of the aforementioned fashion don'ts, but in a restrained way -- almost too restrained. One sky-blue t-shirt's screenprint is a colorful drawing of the St. Paul skyline with a little airplane toting a "MSP 2008" sign. On another shirt, a donkey and an elephant hold a communal sign reading "Let's Party!"

They might as well be Bambi and Thumper, singing "Kumbaya." Come on, people, what's a convention for if not a little sartorial enemy-baiting?

The merch includes many such nonpartisan and bipartisan items; even the partisan products are dubbed "official logo items." Asked how the line symbolizes the Republican party, Lesher steered her answer toward neutral territory: "It's about celebrating history, the whole civic engagement thing on a big scale."

St. Croix owner Pady Regnier says "just about everything" is made in the United States, and "quite a bit" of it in Minnesota. While St. Croix has had convention business in the past, this job is twice as big as anything the 15-year-old company has taken on before, she said.

The merchandise will be sold at several locations, with a flagship store at the CivicFest building, and online at www.msp2008.com. Item costs range from $110 for a waterproof jacket to $8 for a shot glass -- about the span between a barrel of oil and a bag of rice.

So would Winstead wear that Zubaz getup again?

"Aaaah -- right after the lobotomy," he said. "But this is really fun stuff. I like my elephant tie."

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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