You’ve got a dozen of these in your closet. This is why the graphic T-shirt remains a daily staple and will continue to influence fashion.
The graphic T-shirt owes no excuses, and its influence today is stronger than ever.
As a fundamentally unisex article of apparel, the T-shirt is arguably the most democratic garment of all time, conceived as a working man’s shirt at the mid-century, before the fashion community experimented with new printing methods, silhouettes, fabrics, and more, elevating the T-shirt far beyond its humble origins.
But why dole praise on the graphic T-shirt in 2015? On the surface, it doesn’t demand a critical fashion sense to rock stylishly, while in a deeper sense, graphic T-shirts are a vehicle to communicate ideas. Before streetwear was even coined, graphic T-shirts were the main weapon of skateboarders and graffiti artists. Iconic versions including the Stussy tribe, BAPE’s ape head, and Supreme box logo tees cemented it as an unwavering pillar of the streetwear movement, and it continues to serve as an entry point into the market for many brands today. The magic of a bulk order of blank T-shirts and a homemade screen printer has been proven over and over again, showing that T-shirts are a canvas for important commentary.
Neil Barrett, Christopher Kane, Raf Simons and more continue to instill meaning in the graphic T-shirt. In this sense, T-shirts have acted as a bridge between high fashion and streetwear, and a conductor for the entire high-low movement – as Palace’s tri-Ferg graphic exists on the same wavelength as Givenchy’s Columbian-fit “Birds of Paradise” and “Rottweiler” shirts.
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One of the original adopters of graphic T-shirt culture – skateboarding – has come back to claim its right, with brands like Dime MTL, Call Me 917, Bianca Chandon, Palace and more reminding us why graphic T-shirts have an important place in our culture. Other industry heavyweights have been chiming in too. Destination boutique Dover Street Market praised the legacy of the graphic T-shirt with a dedicated installation in London. Virgil Abloh opened up about the graphic T-shirt collection he’s had since he was a teenager. Jerry Lorenzo resurrected classic heavy metal band tees for Fear of God, and merch labels from OVO and Kanye West are staying up in the T-shirt game.
Many names are redefining the role of T-shirts today and their importance should not be downplayed. No garment can compete with its ubiquity. So here’s your reminder. Wear more graphic T-shirts.