Circa 1984. Up and coming band Wham! release the song 'Wake me up before you go go' and its accompanying music video. Band members donned white t-shirts printed with the words 'Choose Life'. The age of the slogan tee had begun.
Where, screw making passionate statements to circumvent our ever-corrupting world, I'd rather show off my swag, call that guy next to me stupid or make a pun about Virginia. So if you have something politically relevant to get off your chest, these are your 3 options. They have devolved from pioneering sayings to being replaced by an onslaught on people's intelligence. There is always that one 'lad' devoid of all humor who's last resort is purchasing a £7 t-shirt. and the candor of this all is that these t-shirts (at the very least) act as gigantic signposts for the guy in the bar you stay 20 feet away from.
As Hamnett said, many of these issues - war, inequality nuclear issues, war, poverty, famine - they are all still around. And so the t-shirts designed for causes of the 80's could be easily reiterated as bespoke tees of today. "A successful T-shirt has to make you think but then, crucially, you have to act,", it's whether or not we do act, that's the point to the slogan t-shirt of tomorrow.
Slogan t-shirts have always been the black horse of fashion. Some slogan t-shirts are funny. Some slogan t-shirts are rude. Some slogan t-shirts can even be... decent looking. In fact, the 'first' slogans to be printed on to t-shirts were sold by Mr Freedom in the 60s, a shop on London's Kings Road set up by Tommy Roberts and Trevor Myles. Its Disney-themed designs, including the likes of Donald Duck, became emporiums for the traditional (yet strained) t-shirt. But the most iconic moment of this style pariah was Katherine Hamnett, who was famously photographed wearing a "58% Don't Want Pershing" T-shirt whilst shaking hands with the then current prime minister Margaret Thatcher. A simple t-shirt acted as a fervant political statement against the basing of US Pershing missiles in the UK at the tail end of the cold war. The legacy was printed, and the trend was spurred.
Her designs were replicated and she went on to execute a limitless career, with tees engraved with hard-hitting mantras such as "Choose Life" and formed a movement for change. To quote Hamnett, they were made to "... to sow seeds of change and help people create a voice.." And that's exactly what they achieved. In a world where dwellers were sentenced to wearing obligatory uniforms - grey suit after grey suit - slogan t-shirts provded men and women the ability to express their opinions in an attempt to show the world and its power-mad leaders the people's voice.
Enter the wonderful world of today.
copyright © josh milton 2017