How to make a Statement with a T-shirt


Winona Ryder's T-shirt for W magazine

There was a time (the 1950s to be precise) when the t-shirt itself meant rebellion. It was essentially an undergarment and when the likes of Marlon Brando (in the film A Streetcar Named Desire) started wearing it as outer wear, it was nothing short of scandalous. We might hardly realize that today. Yet the message we carry on our t-shirts can still be as scandalous.

All major trends find endorsement with Hollywood before they go popular. A revival of the message t-shirt trend started way back in 2002 when Hollywood actress Winona Ryder graced the cover of W magazine with ‘free Winona’ written on her t-shirt’. Britney Spears made news with her ‘Golden Ticket’ t-shirt with an arrow pointing to her pregnant belly.

They say, ‘show me what your t-shirts are and I will tell you who you are’ but not quite in those words. Carrying a company or fashion brand on your t-shirt front makes you a walking- talking advertisement. There are a variety of styles and genre to choose from, so you can find just the right one to go with your personality.

For a long time t-shirts carried unconventional and even anti-social messages. It was cool to be bad. Messages advocating drugs and sexual promiscuity appeared with the advent of Hippie culture. Today Hippie message t-shirts carry familiar message motifs like the peace symbol or the yellow smilie face.

As a repercussion to the negative behavior promoted by t-shirt messages, we now have t-shirts with almost puritan messages. promotes a company called ‘Speak nicely’, that provides t-shirts with positive messages like ‘Honor People’ and ‘Respect your Mother’. It’s little wonder that the company making those t-shirts was started by four women, all of whom are mothers. Then there are the eco- vegan t-shirts claiming ‘I don’t eat animal’ or ‘I love Mother Earth.’

Religious messages on t-shirts are not just promoted by Christian youth organizations. Footballer Ricardo Kaka made it a global craze with his ‘I belong to Jesus’ t-shirt.

Politically inspired t-shirts were seen everywhere during the U.S Presidential elections with ‘Obama: because I can’ being the most popular for obvious reasons. Chi Guevara’s face is seen on t-shirts the world over.

Rock inspired t-shirts are usually black with smoldering shades of grey, copper or white with vintage style lettering. HMV, the most popular stocker of authentic Rock t-shirts counts Led Zeppelin and Guns and Roses among its best- sellers.

                   -Lena Fernandez

Kaka's Jesus T-shirt

2 responses to How to make a Statement with a T-shirt

  1. Rosa said on May 7, 2009

    it is very nice and clearly mentioning about the use of t-shirts in the ancient time and in the modern time by different types of people. congratulations

  2. Hello, can you please post some more information on this topic? I would like to read more.