The slogan tee — so rich in its history, so radical in its potential for political statement. Remember when Katharine Hamnett met Maggie Thatcher? Remember when George Michael chose life? Remember Frank Ocean’s big questions?
Remember when Nick Clegg wore that This Is What A Feminist Looks Like T-shirt?
It’s where fashion meets statement, literally. But like anything stunning, it has been far bastardised from its former glory; instead we wear meaningless slogans across our bodies, devoid of purpose, flapping there on our clammy torsos, reading: BERLIN MILAN PARIS LANCASTER. The other day on the train I saw one that just said: "I’m a fucking bitch" (okay now I’ve written it, I’ve decided I need it). But what does it mean to adorn your body with text? To become a walking book? That’s right, folks: nothing.
This hasn’t always been the case. The meaningless slogan tee once held huge social significance. In fact, there was a time when the right man wearing the right meaningless slogan tee would inspire an instant boner in my teenage pants. There was a time when wearing the right slogan tee was so bodacious, it became about radical consumption of space, of fcuking the system, of breaking taboo and expectation.
Fcuk on the beach, perhaps?
Fcuk for peace, surely?
Shut the Fcuk up!!
Feisty as Fcuk — that’s me!
Too busy to Fcuk, sadly.
Born to Fcuk… hmm, weird?
FCUK XXXploded onto the scene somewhere inside the barren, cultureless waste chamber that was the very early '00s (yes, it was founded in 1972, but it was nothing until those slogan tees). Why?
Well, we were so goddamn disappointed that fcuk all happened when the millennium hit — in evidence: Cliff Richard was number one with a song that was actually a Christian prayer — we had to get our kicks from somewhere, anywhere, please?? The world didn’t end and the most exciting invention of the new future were those glass balls that produced visible purple electricity and would give you static hair but, if left on too long, would actually burn the top layers of your skin off. We looked around, saw what we had, and realised it was shite. Nothing had meaning. Everything we had believed about the millennium bringing positive change was wrong. Enter Mr FCUK. The Talented Mr FCUK. The man who made actually really quite vile T-shirts — both aesthetically and emotionally — and sold them for £60 to any desperate teenager, under-parented minor or incredibly bleak dad.
They were everywhere, like the plague/Tories/straight white men. They took over, decreeing you both on the fashion pulse but, really, without a bean of style to your name. Add a Kangol bucket hat and it was a different story. But if you’d paid me a pound for every late teenage white guy at Creamfields bopping their arms to Paul Oakenfold, unable to close their massive eyelids over their massive pupils after banging the gak for hours on end and smelling, all of them, of a distinct kind of pond water, well – I’d be as rich as the guy who founded FCUK.
This was before normcore; before all the gak lads from my hometown got married, had kids, and started only taking gak once a month when they went to the pub with their other gakky mates. Then, fcuk T-shirts told the world you were down to fcuk. Now, the world’s wardrobe has become so fcuking normal that wearing a fcuk slogan tee would make you stand out like a kazoo in an orchestra. And for my old gakky mates — most of whom I sucked off while they were wearing their fcuk tees (and boxers, which they got in an Xmas bumper pack from their girlfriend who had no fcuking idea what to get them because she didn’t know them like I knew them, the kind of bumper pack that had a combi body-hair-clothing-car wash in it) — standing out was just too much. They wanted a peaceful life.
It’s hard to write anything else about the brand because, honestly, what the fcuk else did they sell? So instead I decided to write some poetic prose around the stunning cultural moment that was the pointless, meaningless slogan tee which, in essence, meant nothing, but in space meant just a fraction more than nothing.
Fashionableness wasn’t your main concern, nor was Chicness, despite the fact you weren’t the most Underprivileged, although you were a Knucklehead. In fact, your Foresightedness, so Cheeky and Unsophisticated at once, caused quite the Kerfuffle. So Fortunate, that your Charismatic T-shirts meant everyone who had previously put you ‘neath the Ultramicroscope eventually let you off because of your infectious Kittenishness. And while sexual Frivolousness, and those suggestive T-shirts, saw you (and me) with Chlamydia at age 16, people Underwrote it as a mere rogue Knob. Fundamentally, you weren’t Careless, it was just your Ultraliberalism that year at V Festival that saw you a little Kiboshed.
The garments themselves inspired Fornication, they Could make the Unsuspecting remove their Kit at a moment’s notice. They were Fitted, they Cuddled the skin, they Undulated over the body, it was Kinky for us wee teens. The phrases on the Front of them were Comprehensive, to say the least, but also Utmost shocking, like a Kangaroo on a London street. Wearing one to a gay club now might inspire a Fisting session, or a little Choking, or if time permits an Ultra-long relationship, Kinship, so beautiful.
But you, old sex Friend of mine, you are married — Cared for, Unquestioningly — by your lovely partner Katy who, once again, got you an FCUK bumper pack for Xmas because it was on offer in Boots.