A slogan t-shirt never goes out of fashion because it’s more than just a t-shirt, it can express a view, show allegiance or be political. In the turbulent 80’s Katharine Hamnett absolutely nailed the slogan tee, here are just a few of her classics:
SAVE THE WORLD
WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW
58% DON’T WANT PERSHING
WEAR A CONDOM
Which kind of summed up the political and social atmosphere of the time and the fears hanging over us all in the mid 80’s, mainly the threat of nuclear war and the spread and subsequent persecution of people affected by what was then referred to as Aids.
Hamnett was already a successful fashion designer in the 80’s and even then was suffering the scourge of the rip-0ff with her designs being relentlessly copied. In this interview in Dazed she cites her frustration with copying in the fashion industry as one of the triggers that launched her slogan t-shirts. She even started to encourage copying of the t-shirts, after all, what better way of getting an important message out there?
Another infamous slogan tee from the time (and often wrongly attributed to Hamnett) was the “FRANKIE SAY RELAX DON’T DO IT” t-shirt, consciously emulating Hamnett’s t-shirts and designed by Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s record label boss Paul Morley to promote the band’s single “Relax”.
Since the 80’s Hamnett has continued to “wear her heart on her sleeve” and produce highly political slogan t-shirts reflective of the times, such as:
JAIL TONY – during the Gulf war
SANCTION SOUTH AFRICA
CHOOSE LOVE – in support of refugee charity Help Refugees
I think the power of the slogan tee is perfectly summed up by Hamnett on her website: “Slogan t-shirts are designed to put ideas in your brain. You can’t not read them. They make you think, and hopefully do the right thing.”
Here in the UK we’re into week 7 of the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown. There has been much talk of the non-discriminatory nature of the virus and how we are all “in it together”. Now, don’t worry, I’m not about to go on a political rant, but this statement is blatantly not true is it? If you’re not lucky enough to have the kind of job that allows you to work from home, if you don’t have a garden, if you don’t live near any open space, if you’ve lost your job, you are much more adversely affected by the UK lockdown.
As a child of the 80’s these slogan tees are fixed in my memory and I had the urge to make an homage to them and showing support for the simple task of staying at home seemed the most obvious inspiration to me.
Spurred on by winning this screen-printing kit recently from Hunt the Moon, I took it as a sign of the stars aligning and created these designs. You can download a pdf of each for free and print them yourself if you click on the images below (they’re both sized to fit onto A4 paper or can easily be resized if you want to print a different size):
Here are some free downloadable instructions for how to print them.
So, I hope you will see this little project as a conscious commentary; a tribute to the influence of Katharine Hamnett and not a ripping off. A reminder of what we must all still do if we’re lucky enough to be able to and not a belittling of the awful suffering of many people right now.
You could print these slogans on an existing t-shirt or you might decide to make your own. I made both these t-shirts from the Peak T-shirt pattern in my book Beginner’s Guide to Sewing With Knitted Fabrics. I also have t-shirt patterns in Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking and Sewing Basics for Every Body if you want to make your own (the t-shirt in Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking is also available as a standalone pdf pattern here). There are also numerous other great t-shirt patterns out there.
Remember, most of your favourite designers in the craft world are self-employed at best, zero hour contract / freelance workers at worst and they will need all the sales they can get at the moment. Support them so that they’re still there for you once this terrible time is over.
Stay safe and stay home my friends.