Garments With History: The T-shirt


Tees are no longer a mere piece of clothing that you wear during a hot summer day. Nowadays, they represent a powerful vehicle to convey a strong socio-political message. We gathered five-ish moments when cloth spoke louder than words. Get to know some of the tees that shaped the status quo.



James Dean and Marlon Brando on the big screen

Cinema was one of the most compelling means of communication back in the 1950s. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) and A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) had two of the most desired male stars of the time. What did they have in common? A simple white t-shirt. Marlon Brando's smothering performance in Streetcar, both in the play and the movie, caused a nationwide spike in sales of the garment. People desired to look like the misfits that they saw on the big screen.

Marlon Brando on a Streetcar Named Desire


Keith Haring´s Silence = Death

The iconic art piece, created by Keith Haring, soon made its way to t-shirts and other garments. The NY-based artist selected the pink triangle, used by German Nazis to identify LGBT+ people, to criticize the silence of the Reagan Administration during the AIDS crisis. Soon after, this iconography was used by protesters to represent their fight against repression, abandonment, and, ultimately, death.

Act Up protesters

Destroy t-shirt by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood

This is one of the most iconic pieces that were ever sold in the SEX boutique on King´s road. It soon became a staple in pop culture. Such controversial creation by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren sends a strong message against brutal regimes. Emblazoned with a bold red Nazi swastika, an inverted image of Christ on the cross, and the word “DESTROY, the tee aims to raise awareness of the horrific political systems that were torturing people at the time.

Vivienne Westwood sporting the controversial t-shirt


58% don’t want Pershing – Jasper Conran

London, March 1984. Prime minister Margaret Thatcher decides to hold a meeting to meet young fashion designers at 10 Downing Street. Jasper Conran, one of the invitees, was not having any of it. So, she decided to "knock up that T-shirt a couple of hours before the event". The artist aimed to demonstrate the EU´s position on the American cruise and Pershing nuclear missiles across Europe. 
In a broader sense, the T-shirt was a clear statement of anti-Thatcher sentiment. Plus, we wish we were flees on the wall to see the politician's face once she saw the t-shirt.

Picture of an akward moment


I am the American Dream – Britney Spears

Between Lindsay Lohan’s “Skinny Bitch,” Paris Hilton’s “That’s Hot, the early noughties were a goldmine for slogan T-shirts. Britney embodied the spirit with the iconic “I am the American dream”. Indeed, she was. By 18 years old, the artists had already sold more than 10 M albums. Even though the pop megastar faced a major uphill battle with the media, we can still claim she is the product of the American Dream.

Indeed, the American Dream


 Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet? – Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean wore this t-shirt during his performance at Panorama Music Festival. Ocean, who is one of the only openly gay men in the hip-hop business, wore a simple T-shirt to tell the world that discrimination should have no voice. It soon became an internet sensation!

A necessary message


What about you? Ready to explore our selection of tees. Find them here!




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