Frankie Says Relax, Nirvana's smiley face, Choose Life... a simple T-shirt can quickly become iconic. From the '70s, when the band tee you wore defined your subculture, to the '80s, when activist sentiments came through in AIDS awareness slogans, to the '90s, when tongue-in-cheek rave smileys filled dance floors, T-shirts have always been wearable art, a loud and proud way to assert your personal and political beliefs.
The wardrobe basic has undergone a renaissance in recent seasons: an army of street style stars stepped out in Vetements' SS16 £185 'DHL' T-shirt, Gucci's £320 logo tee fast became a must-have for every fashion influencer, while Dior's £490 (!) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie-inspired 'We Should All Be Feminists' number proved controversial.
These T-shirts are often a divisive subject, with many arguing that hundreds of pounds for a cotton T-shirt is simply not the same as saving up for a hand-crafted Italian leather handbag, and that these buzz-worthy trends are perfect examples of buyers mindlessly following the crowd. There have been raised eyebrows, too, about who could and should wear a statement T-shirt – can you don a Metallica tee if you’ve not listened to the band beyond their top three Spotify hits? Should political and ideological beliefs, like feminism, be co-opted by brands to sell product, or is wearing said product a statement in itself (albeit a very expensive one)?