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A Brief History of the Statement T-shirt

A Brief History of the Statement T-shirt

At Birdsong, we make statement t-shirts and sweatshirts that are ethical and sustainable. ⁠⁠Our statement tees have been our bestsellers and cult favourites, so to celebrate them, here's a quick history of the statement tee.

 At Birdsong, we make statement tees and sweatshirts that are ethical and sustainable. ⁠⁠

60s:

⁠⁠Mr Freedom opens on the King’s Road in London, selling Disney inspired slogan tshirts. The tshirts are influenced by pop art, and artists like Andy Warhol.

Mr Freedom opens on the King’s Road in London, selling Disney inspired slogan t-shirts. The t-shirts are influenced by pop art, and artists like Andy Warhol. 

 

70s: 

Vivienne Westwood's controversial Destroy T-shirt. broadly, it was a means of challenging the older generation, of saying “We don’t accept your values or your taboos, and you’re all fascists.” The shirt was sold at their iconic SEX store on the King’s Road.

Vivienne Westwood launches politically inspired t-shirts, they cause a bit of controversy. 

a 1975 graphic of tw cowboys touching penises actually led to the arrest of one of their shop attendants, who was stopped and later fined for “indecent exhibition” while walking through Chelsea - a dispiritings sign of how little British attitudes had changed towards homosexuality following the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

“A number of her designs caused controversy, but a 1975 graphic of two cowboys touching penises actually led to the arrest of one of their shop attendants, who was stopped and later fined for “indecent exhibition” while walking through Chelsea - a dispiriting sign of how little British attitudes had changed towards homosexuality following the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.” - Dazed 

 

80s:

“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.

Katharine Hamnett

“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. 

“I wanted to put a really large message on t-shirts that could be read from 20 or 30ft away,” Hamnett said. “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." - Bazaar 

George Michal in a CHOOSE LIFE t-shirt

Brands started to understand the power of a graphic tee. More and more businesses and bands put slogans and logos on t-shirts. Merch became a thing. 

They became more synonymous with pop culture as stars wore them.

Katherine Hamnett

“At the same time, their ties to political and serious matters strengthened with the breakout of the AIDS crisis and the spread of anti-drug campaigns: for example, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education printed slogans such as ‘D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs’ to raise awareness.” - ROKIT  

90s:

Artist Keith Haring launches a tshirt in support of ACT UP, the AIDS charity which aimed to open up conversations about HIV and provide support to those affected.

Artist Keith Haring launches a tshirt in support of ACT UP, the AIDS charity which aimed to open up conversations about HIV and provide support to those affected.

Artist Keith Haring launches a t-shirt in support of ACT UP, the AIDS charity which aimed to open up conversations about HIV and provide support to those affected.

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00s:

Henry Holland reinvigorates a love for slogan tshirts as he sends Agyness Deyn down the catwalk in a tshirt deeply inspired by Hamnett’s 80s tees.

Henry Holland reinvigorates a love for slogan t-shirts as he sends Agyness Deyn down the catwalk in a t-shirt deeply inspired by Hamnett’s 80s tees. 

Henry Holland reinvigorates a love for slogan tshirts as he sends Agyness Deyn down the catwalk in a tshirt deeply inspired by Hamnett’s 80s tees.

Charities embrace the slogan tee, alongside the release of colourful wristbands to show support to causes. 


2017: 

DIOR send a model down the runway in a tshirt stating, “We Should All Be Feminists”. The tee borrows from a feminist book of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and is quickly seen on celebrities like Natalie Portman. The tshirt retails for £515 and sparks a debate. Is it feminist at that price point?

DIOR send a model down the runway in a t-shirt stating, “We Should All Be Feminists”. The tee borrows from a feminist book of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and is quickly seen on celebrities like Natalie Portman. The t-shirt retails for £515 and sparks a debate. Is it feminist at that price point? 

 

Today it’s very common to see people wearing t-shirts that state their political views, express their identity/sexuality, or support charitable causes. With the rise of online printing platforms, it’s easier than ever to get yourself a tee with a statement. 

A Birdsong, we’ve been making statement tees and sweatshirts for years.

At Birdsong, we’ve been making statement t-shirts and sweatshirts for years.

Our organic cotton base t-shirts are made at a vertically integrated garment factory in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.⁠⁠ We dream up our designs in house, and they're then embroidered by talented women paid a fair wage in East London.Our postage and packaging is carried out by adults with learning disabilities in Kentish Town, and all orders will go out via Royal Mail First Class.

We passionately believe that slogan t-shirts are an opportunity to express yourself, but they should also benefit the maker and not harm the planet. That’s why we only use organic cotton, pay our makers living wage and produce them locally. Our prices accurately represent the cost it genuinely takes to produce a slogan tee fairly and sustainably. 


So you can wear your birdsong tee with pride. 

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