The Case For Slogan T-Shirts
Just last month, New York Magazine’s The Cut launched an online shop exclusively selling print-on-demand slogan T-shirts, featuring recent viral phrases and past hit headlines such as ‘What Do Jared And Ivanka Do All Day?’; Cardi B’s classic line, ‘Just Let Me Fat In Peace’; and the infamous quote from Robbie Tripp’s Instagram post that simply reads, ‘I Love My Curvy Wife’.
“We sat around in my office and decided what made us laugh and what would make a funny T-shirt. Really it was like The Cut staff saying, ‘Yeah, I’d wear that,'” Editor-in-Chief Stella Bugbee said of the magazine’s new venture. Their plan is to add a new T-shirt every week, allowing them to respond instantly to the latest news and memes. “It capitalises on whatever people are talking about or joking about in a given week and makes a little ephemeral record of that,” Bugbee explained.
Like The Cut, high street retailer Weekday also release a weekly news-related T-shirt inspired by the latest hot topics. “It gives us a chance to say something and stand for something,” said Annika Berger, Weekday’s print designer. “Sometimes we talk about serious stuff, like human rights, politics or science, and sometimes we talk about fun things that have gone viral.”
This, of course, is nothing new – zeitgeisty T-shirts have been around for years. ‘Make Love Not War’ designs in the 60s; Vivienne Westwood’s subversive slogans in the 70s; Katherine Hamnett’s anti-nuclear number, ‘58% Don’t Want Pershing’, in 1984; ‘D.A.R.E. To Resist Drugs And Violence’ in the 90s; Britney’s now-iconic ‘Dump Him’ design in 2002.
They may still be ways for celebrities to share not-so secret messages (see: Victoria Beckham’s ‘Fashion Stole My Smile’) but the vast majority of today’s slogan tees draw on the trend’s political roots – they broadcast your views on feminism, on body image, which presidential candidate you support. As Hamnett once told the Guardian, slogans are “a way of people aligning themselves to a cause. They're tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself."
The likes of Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Chiara Ferragni have all been spotted wearing Dior’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ tee, while Emily Ratajkowski stepped out in Jonathan Simkhai’s ‘Feminist AF’ and Karlie Kloss in Bella Freud’s ‘Girl Empower’ design. And as i-D magazine points out, “the T-shirt travels” – worn by the world’s most influential women and seen by millions of fans across the world, these simple tees “may serve to sway Generation Z's attitude towards gender equality”.
Slogan T-shirts have also become a way for women to take back control of their reputations. We can perhaps credit Queen of Shade, Naomi Campbell, for this one – faced with eight accusations of employee abuse back in 2006, she stepped out in a long-sleeved tee that simply read: ‘Naomi Hit Me… And I Loved It’. Appropriate or not, her message was clear: ‘I’m not going anywhere’.
During the 2016 presidential elections, progressive fashion site I Feel Like Hillz began commemorating the ludicrous things Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton on T-shirts in real time. ‘She’s Got A Mouth On Her’ was a particular favourite, whilst a black tee with white swirling embroidery reading ‘Nasty Woman’ has been a constant bestseller. Take ownership of derogatory statements, and their power is eliminated.
Cynthia Nixon, former Sex and the City star and current front-runner for New York Mayor, knows this and is using it for political gain. After American Democratic politician Christine Quinn called her an “unqualified lesbian”, Nixon added a slogan tee to her website’s campaign store, emblazoned with Quinn’s offensive words. After all, as Guardian writer Arwa Mahdawi says, “an ‘unqualified lesbian’ like Cynthia Nixon is just what New York needs”.
Political or playful, slogan tees can connect all manner of people on a social level too. They’re as much a talking point as obscure band tees – those in the know can’t resist commenting. So if you don’t yet have one in your wardrobe, maybe it’s time to get something on your chest.
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