The History Of The Slogan T-Shirt

BY Amy de Klerk / Jan 8 2017 / 16:31 PM

And why you should be wearing one now more than ever

The History Of The Slogan T-Shirt

Slogan T-shirts – like the little black dress or the camel coat – are a wardrobe favourite that rarely go away. However, it looks as if they might just be back bigger than ever for spring/summer 2017, so we suggest you dig yours out.

From Henry Holland's anniversary tees to Dior's feminist statement and Gigi Hadid's comical 'Lol ur not Zayn Malik' on offer (reportedly a dig at her ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas), we have a feeling they're going to be everywhere soon.

But slogan T-shirts aren't simply another Nineties throwback, they're a piece of clothing that has been allowing us to subtly send messages since the 1960s when a shop called Mr Freedom on the King's Road in Chelsea sold Disney-inspired slogan tees. Vivienne Westwood took the trend a step further the next decade with politically motivated T-shirts, but it was in the 1980s that the slogan tee really came into its own with Katharine Hamnett's infamous designs.

"They're tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself"

"That T-shirt gave me a voice," Hamnett said of the moment she shook hands with then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while wearing a T-shirt that read '58% don't want Pershing', an anti-nuclear statement. That stunt made Hamnett's T-shirts must-haves and the idea was copied everywhere, think 'Frankie says relax' and 'Choose life'.

"I wanted to put a really large message on T-shirts that could be read from 20 or 30ft away," Hamnett told The Guardian. "Slogans work on so many different levels; they're almost subliminal. They're also a way of people aligning themselves to a cause. They're tribal. Wearing one is like branding yourself."

Katherine Hamnett and a woman in 1985 wearing Hamnett's designs. Image: Getty

This idea of wearing a political message on your clothing certainly hasn't gone away – remember when the Fawcett Committee teamed up with Elle and Whistles for the 'This is what a feminist looks like' campaign or the MP Caroline Lucas' 'No more Page Three' House of Commons protest? But it is not all been about politics; in 2006, Henry Holland injected some fun into the idea with his irreverent slogan tees.

Benedict Cumberbatch modelling the Fawcett Commission T-shirt and MP Caroline Lucas's protest tee. Image: Elle/BBC

Henry Holland injected some fun into the idea with his tongue-in-cheek slogan tees

'Cause me pain Hedi Slimane' and 'Do me daily Christopher Bailey' were just two of Holland's iconic slogans which have become synonymous with the designer, so much so that last season – for his 10th anniversary – models came down the catwalk in 'Let's breed Bella Hadid', 'Give us a toss Karlie Kloss' and 'I'm yours for a tenner Kendall Jenner'.

"Hamnett's T-shirts were very much about an ethical message or a political message," Holland said in 2006. "Mine are much more a bit of fun, a bit tongue-in-cheek and a way for the fashion industry to laugh at itself."

Henry Holland's slogan T-shirts. Image: Getty

And Holland was not the only designer to revisit the idea for the new season. Maria Grazia Chiuri showed her first collection for Dior in October with the 'We should all be feminists' white tee outshining even the most beautiful of the tulle gowns. Vetements, DKNY and Alexander Wang have also been on the slogan-T-shirt bandwagon for the last few seasons.

Dior spring/summer 2017 and DKNY autumn/winter 2016. Images: Getty/Imaxtree

So whether it's a political or a fashion statement you want to make, we suggest you say it with a slogan this spring.

Katy Perry taking a stand against Donald Trump with her T-shirt. Image: Getty

Via Harper's Bazaar UK