QOTD: Why Do People Display Bumper Stickers?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
qotd why do people display bumper stickers

You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker.

I’ve always found this a bit odd.

Here’s why: when you really stop and think about what bumper stickers are, at their very core, they are markings that identify the interests of the driver of the car. It’s like getting a tattoo, or wearing a T-shirt with some writing on it. But I’ve often found that bumper stickers go a lot further than any T-shirt that anyone would ever wear.

Case in point: I have never, in my entire life, seen anyone walking around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. I suspect Mitt Romney himself wouldn’t walk around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. He’s too busy wearing plaid button-ups that make him look like a man of the people, even though his haircut costs more than my cell phone.

Likewise, I’ve never seen anyone walking around wearing a T-Shirt that bragged about the quality of the shirt wearer’s honor student. You also don’t really see T-Shirts that say things like “Well behaved women rarely make history,” or “Wag More, Bark Less,” or “COEXIST.” What you see, when it comes to T-Shirts, is a lot of stains that have been there for what looks like several presidential administrations.

So why the hell do we put these things on our cars? Just because we know other people will be behind us in traffic, we feel like it’s necessary to reveal our interests? Are we trying to start some sort of conversation?

The funny thing is, bumper stickers never start a conversation, because nobody notices them. I’ve driven around for several years with a subtle bumper sticker for my alma mater on the back of my car, and nobody has ever said anything to me about it. Not a word. Not a thumbs up. Not a smile. I suppose someone could be back there talking about it with a friend. Is that the goal of my sticker? To inspire random people to discuss it, completely unbeknownst to me?

The reason people don’t notice bumper stickers is because everyone has them. You pull up at every stoplight and you just sort of assume the guy in front of you will have a bumper sticker, so you couldn’t care less what it says. We really only notice bumper stickers if they’re bizarre and unusual, and they say something like “I HATE MEXICANS.” Then we take a picture and post it on Instagram.

The funny thing is that the bumper sticker is a phenomenon entirely limited to North America. You see them in the States, and you see them in Canada, but you can spend an entire week in Europe and not see a bumper sticker aside from the common international oval country code. In Europe, nobody cares where you went to college or who you’re voting for. They only care that you move your tiny, silver diesel hatchback out of the way so they can drive past you in their tiny, silver diesel hatchback.

So I’m a bit mystified, and I’m reaching out to you, the reader, to get your take on bumper stickers. Do you use bumper stickers? Do you understand why other people use them? Do you ever approach people in parking lots because of their bumper stickers?

Of course, I’m not as dense as I seem here. I understand why people use bumper stickers in the first place: they want other people to know that they support the Bears. Or the Cowboys. Or Millard Fillmore Elementary School, home of the Fighting Powdered Wigs. Or maybe they support OK Go. Or the Outer Banks. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Ron Paul. Or Rand Paul. Or Paul Ryan. Or Ryan Seacrest.

But why the hell do you want unknown random humans behind you in traffic to know you feel this way? Do you expect there will be some giant revolt while you’re sitting at a light, and it’ll spread across the country, uniting everyone in their appreciation of the Father John Q. Zilshepper Catholic School Choir? Is that the reason for the bumper sticker?!

And so, I ask you, the reader: What’s the deal with bumper stickers?

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2 of 269 comments
  • Texan01 Texan01 on May 17, 2015

    The only stickers on my 77 Chevelle are for the Powertour I did a couple years ago. and the only stickers on my 95 Explorer was my Alumni sticker after I graduated. Otherwise I never had more than one sticker on the car.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 17, 2015

    I make statement by installing custom licence plate frame instead of bumper stickers. And my statement is "Closer To Home/Grand Funk Railroad". I try to spread the word and remind occasional fans that they are not alone in this world.

  • Ltcmgm78 I think cars need an AM/FM radio for emergency notifications. Driving at night, I will scan the AM frequency just to see what comes up and to be amazed at the different cities I can get after dark. My SAAB had a Euro-spec radio and I could get long-wave (lower freq than the AM band) and found lots of interesting listening.
  • Golden2husky You'd be way better off in a base Vette for that money.
  • Gene Sedans and coupes don't sell in the quantity that they used to but they still make up a significant market. Why Ford abandoned this segment still baffles me. Again, just look at Toyota, Dodge, Mercedes, BMW, Hyundai, etc who have not abandoned this segment.
  • JMII Cracker Barrel - there is one off every major interstate interchange east of the Mississippi.I don't drink coffee - and based on the constant debate / worry of others just drinking water or tea has greatly simplified my life.Regardless of your choice in snacks and drinks I recommend the iExit app: https://www.iexitapp.com/ it shows what hotels, restaurants and gas stations are coming up so you can decide if its worth pulling off.
  • Redapple2 My dad s buddy got a tire thru the windshield. DRT -dead right there.