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Keep it simple

The slogan T-shirt may be all the rage, but make sure yours is a word-free zone, suggests Seema Goswami.

fashion and trends Updated: Jul 31, 2007 13:07 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times

Question: Who thinks that a T-shirt with the word 'Bristols' emblazoned across the chest is some sort of style statement?
Hint: It's not some spotty adolescent who thinks it's a bit of a laugh to sport naughty words (Bristols is British slang for breasts) on her naughty bits.

No, it's a grown-up, fully-fledged designer by the name of Stella McCartney, who sent this cringe-making creation down the runway - to much applause from the fashion press.

Since then, it's been downhill all the way for the slogan T-shirt. Rude words are pulled out at random and splattered across the chests of credulous fashion victims who really should know better than to buy into this supposedly 'witty' rubbish.

Words such as 'Bitch', 'Slag', 'Slut' routinely turn up in our line of vision as we go about our daily business. And some of them are so rude that it is impossible to even allude to them in a family publication.

What intrigues me is why people spend good money on something so crass and tasteless (and they are not all giggly teenagers who are cocking a snook at the establishment).

In places like Bangkok, Igive the benefit of doubt to the guilty party because most people in that city are not too familiar with the English language.

But what excuse do the rest of the T-shirt offenders have? I mean, what sort of person voluntarily wears a T-shirt that proclaims proudly, 'I'd FCUK me" (which begs the question: is it because nobody else will?).

Even if the letters have been inversed and stand for French Connection United Kingdom and not the four-let- ter word in question, the inference is clear even to the brain-dead. Though quite why this is supposed to be either stylish or funny is beyond me.

Even in India, we have not been spared. Manish Arora famously made his reputation in a show which featured T-shirts with such inspired slogans as Yahan peyshaab karna mana hai (It is forbidden to urinate here) in the Devnagari script.

You would really need to have the lowest of low self-esteem to walk around announcing this to the rest of the world. What makes all this degrading tat even more offensive is that the slogan T-shirt actually started out as a force for good.

It first rose to fame in the now-iconic picture of the British designer Katherine Hamnett meeting Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a Downing Street reception sporting a self-styled T-shirt that announced in a bold typeface: '50% Don't Want Pershing'.

Just by wearing a slogan T-shirt, Hamnett had made a strong political statement against nu- clear missiles. To her eternal credit, two decades down the line, Hamnett was sta at it, sending models down the catwalk with the slogan: "Stop War, Blair Out".

And while it is unlikely that this defiant gesture had anything to do with Tony's recent departure, it did reinforce Hamnett's credentials as a political activist.

Certainly, all is not frivolity in the world of fashion. The Fashion Targets Breast Cancer T-shirts with their trademark target logo have been seen on every supermodel of note, all the way from Linda Evangelista to Gisele Bundchen. And the sale of these items (which were inspired by the death of Nina Hyde - editor of the Washington Post and friend of Ralph Lauren - from breast cancer) has raised impressive amounts of money for breast cancer charities.

The maverick British designer Vivienne Westwood has also pitched in with her "I'm Not A Terrorist, Please Don't Arrest Me" T-shirt to protest the government's attacks on civil rights in the UK. And the profits from the sale of this T-shirt go - rather fittingly - to the human rights group, Liberty But apart from these beacons of sanity in a world gone mad, there is very little to cheer about.

At least T-shirts with the slogans 'Team Jolie' and 'TeamAniston', all the rage after Brad Pitt shocked the world by leaving sweet little Jen for the sultry charms of Angie, had a certain ironic appeal given our current obsession with celebrities and their love lives.

(No surprises then that the Hilton heiresses, Paris and Nicky, were seen sporting them soon after) Naomi Campbell, the notoriously bad-tempered model showed her fun side by appearing in public wearing a T-shirt that said: "Naomi Campbell hit me...And Iloved it". But Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria's decision to go shopping in a T-shirt that proclaimed

"I'11 have your baby, Brad' caused a serious sense of humour failure. Longoria was accused of being insensitive to Jennifer whose marriage was said to have broken up over her refusal to have children - and ended up writing a craven apology to her (Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up.)

Whichever way you look at it, slogan T-shirts have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. How else can you explain why the slogan 'Free Nelson Mandela' which made a strong anti-apartheid statement has morphed into the farcical 'Feed Lindsay Lohan' after the actress was seen looking too thin?

Yes, none of this is particularly edifying. But in my view it is sta a darn sight better than paying for the privilege of allowing your chest to be turned into a walking billboard for fashion brands such as DKNY or Emporio Armani or even declaring defiantly 'J'Adore Dior'. Surely, when it comes to the simple T-shirt, the staple of all our wardrobes, we should all shut the FCUK up.

First Published: Jul 31, 2007 12:29 IST