The Goods

The Melania Jacket Is the Apotheosis of the “Words Don’t Matter” Presidency

First lady Melania Trump departs Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Thursday while wearing a jacket with the words "I really don’t care, do you?" Her back is to the camera as she enters a vehicle.
First lady Melania Trump departs Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Thursday while wearing a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do you?” Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Melania Trump made a surprise trip to Texas on Thursday to visit facilities housing undocumented minors who have been separated from their families, a day after her husband signed an executive order to stop the policy that he previously said he had no ability to stop. Arriving at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland en route to Texas, she was photographed wearing crisp white jeans, Stan Smith sneakers, and a khaki military-style jacket emblazoned on the back with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”

It’s a jacket,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, chastised reporters afterward. “There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

Grisham is right, in a way: There was no hidden message, because the message was emblazoned in very large letters right on the back of the jacket. The message was “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” According to the Daily Mail, the jacket cost $39, and it is made by Zara.

It’s true that the first lady’s fashion choices are sometimes overanalyzed. Was the “pussy bow” she wore to one of her husband’s debates in October 2016 a coded message about his then-recent Access Hollywood tape? Plausibly, no. Was the Dior suit she sported at the State of the Union address worn in “the spirit of protest”? Wishful thinking, surely.

But we are not here to parse the jacket’s military vibe or to ruminate over the meaning of its hood (does it connote modesty? self-protection? secretiveness?). We are talking about the fact that its entire long back panel is taken up with a graffiti-style rendering of the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” It does not take an overintellectualizing fashion critic to ponder meaning in this choice in this space on this particular trip.

Let’s entertain the possibility that Melania meant nothing by wearing this particular jacket. (In that case, her staff—who did not stop her from wearing the jacket on a much-photographed journey to a high-profile appearance—are catastrophically ill-equipped to do their jobs.) Perhaps she was running late, and the I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U? jacket was lying on the bench by the front door on top of a pile of junk mail she’s been meaning to sort. Perhaps a former fashion model who has never been seen with a hair out of place in more than a decade in the public eye wasn’t thinking about the fact that she would be photographed. Perhaps her mind is a perfect blank. Perhaps she mistook it for her other jacket reading I REALLY CARE, DON’T U?

But no. That way madness lies. “It’s a jacket,” the spokeswoman said. “There was no hidden message.” This one little stupid moment in the midst of a humanitarian crisis somehow feels like the apotheosis of the “words don’t matter” presidency. Bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without permission? “It’s just words, folks. It’s just words,” Trump told us. “That was locker-room talk.” His tweets? We’ve been told to ignore them. And now, the first lady wears a jacket emblazoned in huge letters with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” and we are told we are foolish or disingenuous for reading and interpreting those words. Haven’t we learned by now? If someone tells you who they are, believe them.