“You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you”– Karl Lagerfeld
One might say, that a T-shirt is just a casual piece of clothing. Would they be wrong?
No. As something as simple and diverse can be anything you want it to be. Since a very humble beginning as an underwear and work garment, super simple and practical T-shirt has seen evolution in different styles and prints, becoming a wearable art and a powerful statement piece.
While it’s impossible to decide which is the most sold or the greatest T-shirt of all time, we at Printify aim to look at the most popular trends and iconic shirts.
Political and Slogan T-shirts
T-shirts have a long history as objects of protest and political point-scoring. First printed campaign T “Dew it for Dewey” dates back as far as 1948. Now it’s impossible to imagine a campaign without seas of Tees, bearing all kinds of messages for and against political, social and other issues.
We bet you haven’t lived your life without seeing “Che Guevara” and some variation of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. A Marxist figure turned commercial fashion statement? A slogan designed by the British government before the WWII becoming one of the most interpreted Pop-culture lines? Why not.
Advertising T-shirts were born in fifties, when Tropix Togs acquired exclusive rights from Disney to print images of Mickey Mouse and pals on T-shirts to promote tourism and the Disney brand.
Nowadays everyone use this extremely easy way to market themselves, be it a small family run business or People’s Republic of China. You surely have a few wanted and unwanted company, city or similar branded T-shirts in your closet. Don’t hurry to throw them out – they might not become rarities (though you never know), but can be used as pyjamas or material for DIY objects.
We just have to mention legendary “I ♥ NY” T-shirt. It surely looked nice on the napkin it was first sketched on, and now is one of the most worn and most iconic T-shirts of all time. Becoming particularly strong statement after September 11, when many visitors and locals wore this T-shirt to show their support for those affected by the terrorist attacks.
A statement is strong even in commercial items.
Music statement T-shirts
There might not have been a thousand of screaming girls with Elvis face on their Tees at his concerts, but after printed T-shirts became popular, it didn’t take long for them to be transformed into an ultimate statement item. Wearing a T-shirt with the name of your favorite brand tells everyone exactly what music you like (and weather you might like them too).
Amongst the iconic bestsellers are The Rolling Stones’ “Lick” cover, Bob Marley, AC/DC, Ramones “Presidential Seal”, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Prism … We could go on.
No comments here. If you have this in your wardrobe, let’s have a moment of silence together.
Sport statement T-shirts
Sport fans are as particular breed as music fanatics. Loyalty comes printed on a T-Shirt – your favorite sports team might not be winning all the games, but the T-shirts are still selling. Although these trends live somewhat shorter lives due to specifics of the game, some manage to gain legendary status.
In the most iconic cases it’s almost impossible to draw the line between sports and entertainment – NBA, soccer and other sport stars have become iconic as much as for their talent on the field or in the ring, as for social appearances and show business activities. Therefore it’s hard to describe, how recognizable and empowering “Hulkamania” T-shirt is. No 80’s vintage Tees collection is complete without it, it remains one of the best-selling T-shirts of the era.
Art statement T-shirts
While we believe that all T-shirts are a form of artistic expression, there are ones which literally can be categorized as such. You can find printed anything from classic to modern art and in between.
One of the bestselling and most iconic T-shirt is the one with Smiley face. Why would we refer to it as an art object, if everyone is using it as a full stop? Because it was designed over 50 years ago as a logo for an insurance company to encourage employees to smile more. Isn’t it an artistic statement enough?
Success story behind “Three Wolf Moon” T-shirt once again proves the power of Internet. After attracting sarcastic reviews on Amazon.com attributing great power to it, such as making the wearer irresistible to women, striking fear into other males, and having magical healing abilities, sales went through the roof. Inspiring a lot of similar and also twisted designs.
Last, but not least bestseller here is “Tie-Dye”. In 1969 advertising genius Don Price marketed dye as a way to turn boring shirts into psychedelic tie-dye masterpieces and by distributing them at Woodstock, assured T-shirt’s place in the hippie movement.
Community statement T-shirts
Every T-shirt tells a story about it’s owner. Your taste in music, art, your political views, ethnicity and anything else you decide to share on your shirt gives information about your personality to other people.
While In the history of bestselling T-shirts you see some very special examples of community sense – Hard Rock Cafe, Harley Davidson. And does it really matter if you drive a bike or play guitar at HRC? You get the feeling and other people recognize it.
…And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt
Is it? T-shirt designs without a doubt have played a major role in our daily lives, at the same time making an impact on pop culture.
What to learn from this, what will be trending next year, what will sell, what to make… Only answer we have – passion sells. You can analyze and be purely rational about your designs for custom shirts – understanding the patterns of trends and using the power of internet to go viral. But really, the shirt isn’t just a piece of fabric, it’s your canvas. Find that one thing which defines you and go for it!
*Visual examples in the article are created with Printify Mockup Generator. Browse our Product Catalog and create custom shirts yourself! Every single item is custom made with your unique design and might turn out to be the next bestseller.
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