Throughout fashion history, slogan tees have been created to send a message, depending on the current political climate. In Thatcher's '80s we had Katharine Hamnett's anti-nuclear war pieces. In the Blair years of the '00s, Henry Holland made tongue-in-cheek tees that encouraged the industry to laugh at itself – think "Do Me Daily Christopher Bailey" and "Cause Me Pain Hedi Slimane".
In 2016, when women's rights were at the centre of public debate, Maria Grazia Chiuri emblazoned writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's manifesto "We Should All Be Feminists" on T-shirts for her debut Dior collection. In a Trump and Brexit-fuelled 2017, we had Vetements' blue and star-spangled pro-EU hoodies.
Last year, photographer Susan Barnett, who has been shooting images of people across America wearing slogan tees since 2009, said that she's noticed a sharp increase recently in people sporting their political beliefs on their clothes. "There are many, many more," she told the Guardian. "Pro-Republican, pro-Trump, Bernie T-shirts, Hillary T-shirts. You see a lot more anger, a lot more swear words."
But as 2018 progressed, it felt like the slogan tee had died a death; it had peaked. Perhaps it was the abundance of fast fashion brands churning out vague (and often nonsensical) platitudes for £10. Maybe it was because the year was so politically charged that any attempt to pledge your allegiance to a cause via fashion felt trite in the face of so much, well, shit.
We're living in a time when memes speak to young people more than their elected representatives, where our distress about The Big Things (Brexit, Trump, the rise in far-right groups and anti-Semitism) is dealt with the only way internet natives know how: with irony, humour and a heavy dose of camp. And the label serving us exactly that? BLOUSE.
Founded in 2017 by Australian-born, east London-based Geoffrey J. Finch, BLOUSE is the fun – and more importantly, funny – brand we're wearing with pride and posting on our Insta feeds. With tees reading "Life's Falling Apart / I'm Having the Time of My Life!" in the kind of fonts we employed on MSN Messenger back in the day (hello, italics), it feels like a self-referential and postmodern reflection of the internet.
"I woke up to the news of Trump and got the urge to make my own reality," Geoffrey, who honed his craft as creative design consultant at Topshop Unique and creative director of cult label Antipodium, says of founding BLOUSE. "It’s the label to identify with. We’re stronger together, right?"
Our favourite pieces? A long-sleeved number bearing the words "Pinot Grigio / Better the Devil You Know", one featuring a hand-drawn portrait of a young Hugh Grant and reading, somewhat cheekily, "Divine", and a T-shirt emblazoned with "Some Days Are Kylies / Some Days Are Danniis" referring to – yup, you got it – the Minogue sisters.
"I guess it’s a wry optimism – a tonic for uncertain times," Geoffrey tells Refinery29 of the brand's humour. "I really enjoy recontextualising the familiar; toying with multiple subjectivities. Everyone’s got a different trigger."
What's up next for BLOUSE? Joining the long- and short-sleeved T-shirts, hoodies and caps, a new line of casual bottoms will be hitting Net-A-Porter any day now. The label's products start at £45 and if you're anything like us, you'll be adding each and every one to your wardrobe. Thank god for Geoffrey and his GSOH.
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