It’s no secret that graphic ‘motto’ tees have become très populaire. Motto themed graphic tees are popping up everywhere, from high fashion runways, to Candice Pool Neistat’s new Billy! brand, to Forever 21’s horrible attempts at being #relatable (see here). Graphic motto tees have evolved from what they once were, (the cheasy, punny, embarrassing tops that I used to wear), and are now becoming more politically motivated, personally motivated, or (in the case of Forever 21), financially motivated. Regardless of what section they fit under, everyone’s making them, and pretty much everyone’s wearing them.
Politically motivated motto tees have been increasingly popular even among the upper class (cough cough, NYFW), but the trend has filtered down to high street brands alike. Some brands, like Everlane (all I want is to buy everything from this store. Seriously. Everything), you would expect these kinds of shirts from. Everlane is a brand built on ‘radical transparancy’ which basically just means they let you know what’s in their clothes, who’s making them and where. They are a brand who’s very existence is political, and challenging the status quo in the world of business, so their 100% Human graphic tee collection unsurprisingly promotes a political, and ethical stance, as well as donates proceeds to the ACLU.
Even Topshop has jumped on the motto tee bandwagon with tops like the very popular ‘Femme Forever‘ (featured in this post). Their political message seems to be one of female empowerment, with other tops boasting mottos such as ‘Females of the Future‘ and ‘Babes Unite‘.
While motto tees started out to be much more personally motivating, with mottos like ‘mind over matter’ sprawled across them, tees have obviously taken a turn for the political, and people are ON. BOARD. The Topshop Femme Forever top is one of their best selling graphic tees, and both the Females of the Future and Babes Unite shirts are trending on the Topshop website as I write this. In the current political climate and the rise in shameless alt right movements promoting the destruction of human rights, people are more now than ever willing to, quite literally, wear their politics on their sleeves. Some may do so in a stance of unity against those who are trying to tear them down, others are now just realising that the personal is becoming political. They are realising that who they are as a person may inherently put them at risk. Society has inevitably taken a turn for the serious, people are less concerned with funny puns like the classic you rock! (picture of rock) you rule! (picture of ruler). As politics seeps into out every day lives, it is only natural that it should also seep into our clothing.
Not all graphic motto tees are politically motivated nowadays, we still see a lot of mottos that simply promote a state of mind or a hint as to who you are, and/or what you’re about. My current favourite, as previously mentioned, is Candice’s Billy! collection. I would seriously die for one of those t shirts but I am literally that poor right now that I can’t buy one. What has my life become. Billy! the brand was built off of Candice’s own tomboy style and laid back personality. The shirts themselves are inspired by the constant struggle that is your boyfriend’s tops always being about a million times more comfortable than your own. Each top “looks lived in and loved in. boy cut because boys have the best t-shirts.” The Billy! brand is a new kind of political take on the personally motivated motto tee, it’s a bit deeper than just saying ‘mind over matter’ on a shirt, it’s saying I like to be comfy, I like something that’s easy to throw on, I don’t really care, it’s neither here nor there. I want 12. Billy! can also be taken on a more political level, as it does away with gendered anything, you can read more about Billy! here.
Okay, okay. I didn’t really know what to call this section. ‘Financially motivated” just means those tops that don’t make any sense, but big name brands hope will sell because they’re relatable or funny? Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters are both guilty of this. These are the kind of motto tees that make 0 sense, or, the ones that are like … hey??? that’s super problematic?? What are you even??? This is where brands have seriously missed the mark in the trickle down effect, they’re making motto tees, but they’re completely out of touch with their demographic. Sigh, it’s like the Pepsi commercial on a tshirt.