By Anna Gaw
You can learn a lot about a place based on the collection of bumper stickers you see stuck onto the cars in the area. I have noticed this very distinctly since coming to Colorado College and spending more time in Colorado Springs.
The stickers you see plastered on the cars in the CC parking lots seem, more often than not, to resemble the collections of stickers in Boulder, Colo. These average CC stickers seem to capture the general “vibe” of the school: outdoorsy, liberal, environmentally aware.
If you walk around campus in places where cars are parked or driving, you are bound to find a plethora of outdoor brands: Patagonia, Black Diamond, Melanzana, Kuhl, the North Face, or Mammut. Name a high-end outdoor retailer and their sticker has probably made it onto the car of a CC student.
This representation of the brands gives insight into how the young adults around campus are outfitted for their adventures to climbing gyms, ski areas, and national parks. Students carry mementos from Earth Treks, City Rock, Monarch, Sugarloaf, and Arches, just to name a few. Some cars suggest you get outside, or “take a hike.”
Additionally, you can see the approximately 85% out- of-state demographic by looking at the stickers, not just the license plates. CC kids seem to like to show a little part of home on their cars. Whether that’s a Santa Cruz sticker, “Ski the East,” or “home” written in an outline of a state, you can see that the CC community comes from many different places.
While they show love for their homes, CC students have assimilated into the proud Colorado culture. Colorado flag stickers, paw prints with a “CO,” and cartoon and decorative “Colorado”s plaster the backs of cars hailing from almost every U.S. state. In addition to Colorado pride, there is plenty of CC representation. Many students flaunt their college as they drive around. Moreover, the general social and environmental justice stance of the CC population becomes clear as you see multiple “coexist” stickers, many forms of “save the bees,” anti-hate, and “Keep Tahoe Blue.”
The stickers around Colorado Springs also seem to reflect the general attitude and political opinions of the residents. I have seen several “Police Lives Matter” flags.
Some cars also have gun stickers which often read “protect my Second Amendment rights.” Additionally, there are plenty of stickers supporting Trump. However, I do occasionally see a Bernie 2020 sticker, an “Impeach Trump,” or a Human Rights Campaign “equal” flag. I have also noticed lots of Air Force, Army, Navy, and other military stickers.
Some people have stickers that are not politically themed, such as sports teams, colleges and universities, or a favorite coffee shop. There are lots of “I love my [insert dog breed],” “who rescued who,” or the Colorado flag superimposed onto a paw print.
It sometimes seems as if CC and Colorado Springs stand for totally different things. In some ways, I believe that this is true. When I drive home to Golden, Colo. and the Denver Metro Area, I see more of a mix of the polar opposites of political stickers. However, as we see throughout the state, Coloradans (including CC kids) seem to love the outdoors, their dogs, and Colorado. And as with every category, there are outliers and diversity. Few people actually fit the norm, and it’s the differences that are really important.
Honestly, there are many things you can’t learn about a place just from observing the bumper stickers on cars. There is definitely a bias from the view. For example, I know there are plenty of logos I wouldn’t even recognize and ways in which I think of and pick out stickers that fit with my view of a place. On another note, there is also likely a bias toward stickers that represent companies who give them out for free, or certain things people want to show off on their cars in public. There are also plenty of cars without bumper stickers.
Regardless of the lack of scientific analysis of bumper stickers, they remain a silly and fun way to express yourself and get to know (at least some things) about your city or community.