The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again) Of The Slogan Tee

Are slogan t-shirts taking protests to the next level? Or are they simply making too much noise?

The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again) Of The Slogan Tee

Fashion has always had a way of holding up a mirror to society. The way we feel towards a certain hemline, a piece of clothing or a runway trend can and often is dictated by the world that surrounds us — whether we are conscious of it or otherwise; and no other fashion trend embodies this symbiotic shift between political climes and consumer trends better than the slogan tee.

Slogan tees have always been around. You see them hanging at souvenir shops, all bearing catchphrases that carry a sense of irony and humour. Often poorly designed, produced in massive quantities, they’re not generally made to be fashionable or trendy — until Maria Grazia Chiuri sent out her now-famous “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt for her first collection at Dior, and instantly spawned an army of “woke” influencers everywhere. Coupled with Prabal Gurung’s own line of slogan shirts that closed his runway show the next season and you can see the status of this ubiquitous clothing article cemented as a must-buy, must-wear item.

Coupled with Prabal Gurung’s own line of slogan shirts that closed his runway show the next season and you can see the status of this ubiquitous clothing article cemented as a must-buy, must-wear item.

Slogan tees have become a very prevalent part of the fashion landscape, partly in thanks to the rise of social activism and the idea that one should speak out about the injustices that they see. The slogan t-shirt became a symbol of a silent protest — one that you can wear with a pair of jeans to show the world exactly where you stand on certain topics. It became an unspoken rallying of like-minded people who identified with (and probably coveted) each other’s slogan shirts, thus forming a fashionable Greek chorus that repeated the same few catchphrases into eternity.

But as with the majority of things and concepts adopted by fashion, the slogan tee also began to a parody of its own making. Suddenly, every store — from the high fashion boutiques to the crowded racks in the high street shops — had their versions proclaiming everything from women’s rights (“GIRL POWER!”) to self-aggrandizing phrases (“I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG, BYE”) and environmental issues (“SAVE THE OCEANS”).

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The irony of it? Stores were producing so many of these t-shirts, and consumers were getting so bored of them, that many ended up in discount bins. So even if a t-shirt bore a slogan reminding the world to care for the depleting forests, it often just ended up in a landfill somewhere. So much for making a statement about saving the earth.

Still, the slogan t-shirt hasn’t exactly faded away. For her FW19 season, Chiuri’s Dior collection opened with — surprise! — another slogan t-shirt. It also continues to be an enduring item seen outside the fashion week shows.

Earlier this year, Net-A-Porter also teamed up with designers like Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney to design limited edition t-shirts in celebration of International Women’s Day, with a portion of proceeds donated to Women for Women International, an international global charity that supports women affected by war.

Perhaps the future of the slogan tee isn’t just about making a statement anymore, but in how one’s actions support these catchy one-liners. After all, if everyone is talking, then maybe no one is listening.

It’s 2019. Time to let actions speak louder.

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