The Power of the T-Shirt

Wearing my Fair Food Program T-Shirt; Photo: Lauren Hagerstrom

Today London’s Fashion and Textile Museum opens its new exhibition, T-shirt: Cult, Culture, Subversion – where the tee takes center stage – with the exhibition taking a comprehensive look at the evolution of the T-shirt, charting the history, culture and subversion of this most affordable, popular, and humble item of clothing. But the narrative of the exhibition is the T-shirt’s social and political power. Quite simply, T-shirts say who we are and what we want to be. In the 1960s, it was anti-war designer-campaigners Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett, who saw the potential of the T-shirt as a platform for political messaging. The exhibition features a private collection of Vivienne Westwood T-shirts from the early days of “Let it Rock“, “Sex“, and “Seditionaries“, through to recent collections, such as “Active Resistance“, “Propaganda” and “Climate Revolution.”

I am reminded of a feature I wrote a few years ago on TFIO, after seeing an illuminating documentary about the need to support fair food wages and to protect the people who harvest our food. Lauren took this photo of me outside my local Whole Foods Market, one of the designated stores which supports Fair Food Program. It was a simple T-Shirt that reflected my deep appreciation of the businesses who are called-to-action to support those in need. I believe in the power of clothes and in the power of the T-Shirt to reach the masses with social messaging.

How I wish I could be in London today for the opening day of this inspiring exhibition!

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