Thanks to ‘Hiddleswift’, the slogan T-shirt is very much back in vogue, says Ciara McDonnell.

Ah, young love. Gone are the days of nervous courtships and quiet whispered romance.

Today, you simply emblazon your adoration on a t-shirt.

As illustrated in recent weeks, the much-touted romance of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston grew legs from extremely bad dance moves at the Met Gala to a fully-fledged Hiddleswift when Tom donned a T-shirt bearing his love during Swift’s Fourth of July celebrations with an I Heart TY T-shirt.

In a world where our lives are communicated via carefully styled Instagram shots, Tom and Tay-Tay are the latest celebrities to utilise their clothing to get a message across.

Whether you’re a part of Beyoncés Bey Hive, wearing lemon slogans all over your clothing, or you sported a Yes sticker during the referendum campaign on same-sex marriage, the easiest way to tell the world what you think, is on your clothes.

Cara Delevingne walks the Runway at the Sister by Sibling presentation during London Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2013/14.
Cara Delevingne walks the Runway at the Sister by Sibling presentation during London Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2013/14.

Of course, celebrities have been at this game for years, as deputy editor of Irish Tatler and fashion expert Jessica O’Sullivan attests.

“I think there are certain celebrities who know how to work the press,” she says.

“Just like Daniel Radcliffe wore the same outfit every night for months while leaving the theatre to frustrate the paparazzi (which was quite frankly genius), the opposite is true for Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston.

“They’re so media savvy; they know absolutely that wearing a T-shirt that says ‘I heart TS’ is total tabloid and social media fodder to drive fans and media alike into a frenzy.

“I feel that kind of move is expertly planned and very contrived.“

In the age of paparazzi and a culture obsessed with celebrity, these slogans have proved useful tools for famous people to get their point across without having to open their mouths.

When Brad Pitt caused waves by leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, celebrities and fans the world over chose sides by wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Team Jolie or Team Pitt.

Here in Ireland, we have been using the idea of slogans for a better cause, as seen during the recent marriage equality campaign.

“There are always going to be those that like to jump on the latest buzz phrase.

“However, there’s another layer that we saw during the marriage equality campaign, which goes back to the Yes stickers everyone proudly wore for weeks and months leading up to the vote,” says O’Sullivan.

“I remember reading a quote from a young gay man who said that when he passed a stranger wearing that sticker on the street, even though he didn’t know them, he knew that they didn’t hate him for being gay.

“And as more and more stickers appeared on people’s lapels, it became overwhelmingly obvious that more people stood with him than against him.

Lindsay Lohan poses backstage at Z100’s Jingle Ball 2013, presented by Aeropostale, at Madison Square Garden on December 13, 2013 in New York City.
Lindsay Lohan poses backstage at Z100’s Jingle Ball 2013, presented by Aeropostale, at Madison Square Garden on December 13, 2013 in New York City.

“For years here in Ireland, the subjects of abortion and homosexuality were taboo.

“Even if you had no problem with either, fear might have caused you to keep your views to yourself.

“As a result thousands of women had abortions and thousands of gay people hid their sexuality, suffering utter loneliness and shame not knowing that there was in fact a hidden army of silent supporters out there.”

These silent supporters have found a voice in initiatives like The Repeal Project, the black and white sweatshirts that have been taking social media feeds by storm since their launch at the end of June.

Cleverly designed, these sweatshirts are emblazoned with one word: Repeal, referring to the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

Its organisers say that they are allowing “outerwear to give a voice to a hidden problem” and it’s working.

Within an hour of the sweatshirt’s launch online, they sold out.

Entrepreneur and social media influencer James Kavanagh says that The Repeal Project is a brilliant example of mobilising today’s social-media savvy generation.

“For some people, it’s easier to wear something that has a loaded message than actually verbalise it,” he says.

“A picture paints a thousand words and all that jazz.

“Slogan clothing and clever visuals can allow access to people who otherwise may not care about political issues.

“The reality is that sometimes, serious issues need to be made fashionable in order to grasp the attention of certain people.”

A silent soapbox, shirts emblazoned with political messages are here to stay, and why not, says Kavanagh.

“If throwing glitter on important (but maybe boring) issues is what it takes to catch the attention of a wider audience, then what’s the harm in that?

“I have a friend who didn’t care about voting until his idol Paris Hilton wore a ‘Vote or Die’ T-shirt.

“Now he’s totally politically engaged and that is no lie.

“Isn’t that great?”


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