Words can be a weapon: political statement T-shirts make their stance clear – openly, loudly, and boldly. Our look into fashion history with Katherine Hamnett, the inventor of the statement T-shirt, on International T-shirt Day 2022 shows how far the impact of a simple T-shirt can reach.
In simple black and white, Katharine Hamnett achieved her international breakthrough as a designer: when the Brit met then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984, she openly displayed her criticism of the US-made Pershing II guided missiles. Her statement T-shirt “58% Don’t Want Pershing” became a fashion legend and Hamnett herself a role model for all activists who express their protest with words rather than fists. Although the political statement T-shirt does not seem like a fashion revolution at first glance, it contained two important moments: typographically, its striking capital letters symbolize an outcry, and its simple design invites imitation. It was, and still is, one of Katharine’s central design tenets that her designs should be reproduced; more important to the designer than the question of original and fake is that as many people as possible carry their messages out into the world.
Her commitment was and is manifold. From “Think Global” to “Stop Acid Rain” to “Choose Life”, Katharine Hamnett turned political and social protest into it-pieces in the mid-80s. After a break from the scene, Hamnett celebrated her big comeback in 2008, once again capturing the social zeitgeist; whether “Second Referendum Now” or “No War”, there are just as many reasons today as in 1984 to make a statement in bold black and white. But is it enough, in these times, to stick to a “fashion statement”? No, says Katharine Hamnett, who rejects any form of “slacktivism”. In addition to her clear political stance, sustainability has been playing an increasingly important role in her designs in recent years. It is important to her that her products are produced using the most ethical and environmentally friendly methods available. Her collections use organic cotton, recycled polyester, or sustainably sourced silk and avoid the use of any pesticides in the production process.
For fans of the fashion icon and those with an affinity for political statement T-shirts, we’ve put together a collection of expressive organic T-shirts in the spirit of Hamnett. We are offering 22 percent off a Spreadshop purchase and 15 percent off a Spreadshirt purchase today only in honor of Katharine Hamnett and T-shirt Day.
Some of our political statement T-shirts