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How One Woman Reinvented the Slogan Tee

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T-shirts weren’t always a place for politics, according to ‘History Of.’

Wearing your opinions on your chest may not seem like a novel idea or even a specific concept that someone had to invent. But political slogan tees as we know them today are a relatively new phenomenon, and they’re thanks to a British designer named Katharine Hamnett.

Hamnett put “CHOOSE LIFE” in bold black letters on a T-shirt back in 1983, intending it to be an anti-war statement. The aesthetic itself took off thanks in part to its starring role in Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” video. She made a few more with different slogans that popped up on Queen at the Rock in Rio Festival in 1985, among other places.

Now politically minded slogan shirts are ubiquitous, from the “Future Is Female” shirts that shot to popularity last year to pro-Trump and pro-Bernie shirts. Slogan tees are now truly in vogue, embraced by the fashion industry in an age when a single sharable photo can mean viral success for a company.

But as Hamnett herself has said, “A succesful T-shirt has to make you think, but then, crucially, you have to act.”

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