Back in the days of mud huts and hamlet dwelling, if you had something to say you could either write a song to perform at the local tavern or get on a box and shout at people until they stopped to listen. By the end of the 15th Century you also had the option of printing it onto a poster and sticking it around town if you wanted to. This was fun until the 1820s when wall space in London was precious and posters were taxed so people started a new way of getting the message out there. They put it on a sandwich board and physically wore it.
200 years later we have endless ways to shout about things. We can tweet, blog, take a picture, take 12 pictures, use emojis, hashtags, DMS and tags. Things get noisy and crowded and it's hard to cut through but there still remains that same one glorious way of speaking your mind. Just like the savvy sandwich chaps and the suffragettes, take your message and emblazon it across your chest. Wear your words. For decades there has been no bolder statement, no clearer way of saying something you feel, than with a slogan T-shirt.
Words are powerful. Movements and tribes have been born and solidarity found with slogan T-shirts. You are saying to every single person who walks past you, "THIS is what I believe! This is what I want you to know about me!! Look!!" Wearing words is bold and putting them on your body for the day is a big commitment. So then why, dearest British high street, are your slogan T-shirts so naff?
As I write this, three women in slogan T-shirts have walked past. As I craned to have a look I read "Go Away," "Nope" and "Not Yours," all of which are comically miserable, though sadly not meant to be. For further research I went round the shops, where slogan T-shirts range from random to nonsensical. The random ones seem to be single words for some reason indicating the passage of time, such as "Forever" or "Tomorrow." Another just said "SECURITY" which could get very confusing at 3AM at the back of a dance tent. Others have bizarre collections of words like "Forever Whatever" or "Dark Romance." There are odd phrases such as "Now is Now" and the entirely baffling "Got Music" which I can only assume means the person wearing it wants you to know they have an iTunes account or CDs at home. Aside from being ridiculous though, none of these statements actually mean anything.
Perhaps worse than saying nothing though, is saying the wrong thing. There are T-shirts on the high street which are just plain unhelpful. "Girls Love Pearls" sounds like a 1950s jewellery advert for housewives. No one benefits from being able to brand themselves a "Drama Queen" or being on "Bae Watch." I wanted to fling myself on a young girl who was holding up a "Babe Uniform" T-shirt and tell her everything that was wrong with it. There's no doubt feminism is on trend and efforts have been made with "The Future is Female" as well as "Girls Unite" but there is still a long way to go.
I think the slogans which make me most cross though are the ones that are just mean. "Not Sorry" suggests you can be as vile as you like and you'll never have to apologise. "You Suck Less than Most People" is appalling and "I Don't Play Nice" is bordering on being a threat. There's also a lot of "Don't Care" and "No one Cares" which makes me want to scream "YES THEY DO!" We deserve better than being told you're "Not Worth my Time" and "An Ironic Answer is the Best Reply" makes me want to go round topless.
Also (an aside) I have been alarmed to note a lot of these T-shirts are that thing we hate most, cropped. Most of them would barely skim the bottom of a bra and reveal the mass of white pork belly I have between where my bra ends and my mom jeans begin. Perhaps these are T-shirts made for people who don't need to wear a bra. Or who don't have pork belly. I think I have met two such people in my life and they were very boring.
I should of course point out the goodness, that there are some brilliant slogan T-shirts out there though usually online and from independents. Le Blow are creating 70s inspired slogan T-shirts, including an excellent "Fromage" one because the pledge to cheese is real. A special mention has got to go to Help Refugees who produce "Choose Love" jumpers and T-shirts, designed by Katharine Hamnett who did the iconic "Choose Life" and each purchase donates to the charity. I also did find one decent slogan at the back of Zara I found one which says "Spread the Love," a gesture to counterbalance the mean girl tees.
High street you've got to do better. We deserve better. We deserve words to match how clever, vocal and witty we are. Every single day I see clever memes and sharp comments online which make me think or smile or really laugh. At the Women's March in January there were thousands of smart and brilliant statements put on placards that screamed messages of hope, love, courage and wit. We need our clothes to be just as strong. We're here and we are loud so please give us T-shirts that scream something, like we do.