f21 collage

It has happened to all of us. You’re browsing through the rails as you’re shopping and you spot a tee or sweater you think could be your next purchase. It ticks all the boxes at first glance. Then you get closer, take it off the rail  and see that what could have been a perfect addition to your wardrobe has been tarnished with a ridiculously unnecessary slogan. You have no choice to put it back and sadly walk away, mourning what might have been.

Graphic tees started out as our friends, they expressed things for us so we didn’t have to. Want to know someone’s favourite band? Look at their t-shirt. Want to know the city someone is particularly loving at the moment? It’s probably on their clothing somewhere. They’re just a great way of spreading valuable and quality information to the public. That does not include telling people that you are a mermaid on duty- do mermaids even have duties?- or that you’re world famous- you’re more than likely not and if you were you shouldn’t need a piece of clothing to tell people.

Things took a turn for the extreme last Wednesday when Forever 21 launched a new US clothing line in collaboration with Taco Bell. To clarify, that is the American fast-food chain that serves Mexican dishes. ‘Too much sauce’ and ‘Fire! Don’t wait up’ are some of the slogans featured as well as numerous logos, hot sauce and taco pictures. Bare in mind, this range is not available in stores other than the US but take a minute to imagine a Burger King or Nandos clothing line because I don’t think it’s off the table at this point. Would anyone wear it or have graphic tees finally gone too far?

“I like graphic tees but I wouldn’t wear them myself. I like humour that pushes boundaries and takes it just almost too far, like Family Guy humour. I hate slogan-y stuff in H&M and Forever 21 and stuff that say things like ‘girls bite back,” said Business studies student, Nicola.

Katie, who is currently studying Science education is a fan  of utilising graphic tees to show off her interests but makes the point that sometimes the slogans put on clothes can be taken to the extreme and end up making no sense.

“It’s a good way to show other people you like the stuff too but I can foresee a ‘pizza feminism’ t-shirt in stores soon,” she joked before considering whether she would wear a shirt promoting a fast food chain.

“It depends on what it looks like, like if it’s too tacky or in your face I wouldn’t,” she said.

It’s not always just about a matter of personal taste when it comes to some of the statements we see on clothes being sold. Multiple companies have been under fire from the public about controversial choices they have made and the messages their clothing spreads. Whether it’s a politically offensive term or something as simple as wearing a top that says ‘I hate everyone’, it is important to realise that what we wear has a message.

In 2011, Topshop caused outrage amongst females everywhere when it released a t-shirt that read ‘ Nice new girlfriend. What breed is she?’. Topshop claimed the shirt was intended “to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning,” but eventually pulled it from the shelves and issued a formal apology.

Urban Outfitters are no stranger to controversy surrounding their clothing as in the past they have sold t-shirts and sweatshirts with slogans such as ‘Depression’, ‘Eat less’, ‘Vote for vodka’ and ‘Misery loves alcohol’. It is important to keep in mind that a large proportion of the store’s customers are teenagers.

Slogans aren’t the only thing that can make graphic tees push the boundaries. In 2014 Urban Outfitters showed that a picture says a thousand words when a ‘vintage’ blood stained Kent State University sweatshirt was put on the market. This was widely assumed to be a reference to the 1970 shooting at the University which left four dead and nine others injured.

In spite of these controversial instances, multiple companies have recently proven that graphic tees can be used to promote a better frame of mind. Whilst not everyone’s personal fashion taste, words such as ‘Believe in yourself’, ‘Happiness looks good on you’ and Stand up for the planet’ hurt nobody and can do nothing but good.

Equality and other political slogans are the current words of choice in popular high street stores and websites such as Boohoo, Missguided, River Island, Forever 21, Bershka and ASOS. High profile celebrities like Harry Styles can also be seen to be directing a change for the better. The star’s latest merchandise features t-shirts, sweatshirts and accessories with the message ‘Treat people with kindness’.

Although these kinds of shirts can often be taken to the extreme, the majority spread a positive message and should be encouraged. I would much rather see someone walk past me wearing a ‘Girls are the future’ sweatshirt than one saying ‘Uh yeah no’.

This article is not about getting rid of fun clothes or t-shirts with a bit of a joke, wear them to your heart’s content. It’s about being conscious about the words we are choosing to walk around wearing all day. If it is rude, hateful or just makes completely no sense, why wear it just because it’s a nice colour or has cool sleeves?

Gillian Hogan

Image Credit: Forever 21