Examining history of t-shirts at Fashion & Textile Museum exhibit

The Fashion & Textile Museum in London is currently running an exhibition on t-shirts, T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion and it was recently covered by Aimée McLaughlin in Design Week.

A new exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum examines the garment in the context of its role as the “perfect blank canvas” to express opinions on everything from LGBT rights to climate change.

As Mclaughlin writes, the article didn’t focus solely on the history of t-shirts and instead looked at how t-shirts have developed to say something. Regardless of what a t-shirt says, it almost always says something about the person wearing it as t-shirts have become so ubiquitous that it’s rare a t-shirt is worn solely for clothing. McLaughlin writes:

Despite the garment’s fascinating backstory, the museum was keen to make sure the exhibition didn’t solely focus on its history, but on its role as a mouthpiece as well. “For us it was about looking about what the t-shirt can do,” says curator and head of exhibitions, Dennis Nothdruft. “How does this very simple garment exist in all these ways, and why do people choose to say something with their t-shirt?”

We’re seeing t-shirts, and other merchandise become even more niche and specific with the rise of print-on-demand platforms and this trend of t-shirts saying something isn’t going away as custom t-shirt designs increase. McLaughlin says similar, with a final quote from Nothdruft:
What is certain is that the slogan t-shirt isn’t going away anytime soon, adds Nothdruft. “I think there’s a democracy to it,” he says. “The t-shirt’s basicness has the ability to transcend fashion, and become the perfect blank canvas to project what you want to say.”

Check out the whole article How the t-shirt went from a wardrobe staple to a tool for change at Design Week. And if you’re in the London area, stop by the exhibit at the Fashion & Textile Museum.

Then think of how you can something with your t-shirt designs that may resonate with others. If it may not be obvious to customers, be sure to add some supporting product copywriting for Merch by Amazon listings as well!

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