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Amazon, T-Shirts and Standing Up For the Real Civil War

posted Aug 19, 2016, 11:02 PM by Douglas Sun   [ updated Aug 29, 2016, 11:41 PM ]
 When we first began selling our Beards and Generals t-shirts through Merch by Amazon, I complained bitterly that our discoverability was likely nil because when you search Amazon by "Civil War t-shirt" you turned up pages and pages of Captain America items, thus rendering us all but  undiscoverable. A couple of months in, I decided to check and see if this was still true. Rather to my surprise, I found that two of our shirts had risen to the top of the third page of results. Even more to my surprise, I found that a shirt about the real, United States Civil War,  by another vendor, had made it onto page one:

 Union Soldiers on Lookout Mountain t-shurt, sold by War is Hell Store

At the risk of stumping for a competitor, I congratulate War is Hell Store for this modest, but nonetheless noteworthy achievement. We history nerds 
have to stick together. And I think it is important for all of us to stand up for the real Civil War and take back a search term buyers interested in the U.S. Civil War are likely to use.

To be sure, Ramen Sandwich isn't competing directly with War is Hell Store. They list about 200 different designs, almost all of them related to U.S. history, and all of them use rather straightforward, conventional imagery. They do not sell shirts with images of ramen sandwiches on them, Our shirts are sly, ironic tributes to the vast panoply of Civil War-era facial hair. Here, for instance, is their William Tecumseh Sherman shirt:

Here are our shirts with General Sherman on them:

Of both cases, the great Belgian artist Rene Magritte would have said, "Ceci n'est pas William Tecumseh Sherman." But I like to think that there is room in the market for both approaches. Why not wear one of our shirts and one of their shirts on alternate days? UPI's be the talk of the town and the envy of your friends.

BTW, I also found this cool-looking Confederate kepi replica on page four of search results. I'll happily forgive the fact that it's not a shirt.

I realized at last why searching by "Civil War t-shirt" was dredging up so much Captain America mercj": Most, if not all, of the listings used "Civil War" a shorthand for Marvel Civil War or Captain America: Civil War; clearly, the sellers operated on the assumption that if they said, "Civil War" people would know that they meant Marvel Universe and not the remarkable events of 1861-5. I have nothing against referring to an intramural squabble between superheroes a civil war. But even so, this strikes me as a sad comment on on the state of our Republic and the general level of respect for our history and traditions. It's all well and good for Captain America and Iron Man to be pissed off at each other. But once upon a time, we had a very real civil war in this country, one that took hundreds of thousands of lives, and both its causes and consequences resonate down to the present day. It seems to me that, for Americans at least, that civil war should always own the search term "civil war."