Have you ever been drawn into a shop by a t-shirt hanging on the back wall, only slightly visible to your eye as you walked past the store, and you gloat as you triumphantly walk up to it thinking to yourself, “ha. I have done it. I have found the t-shirt I will wear for the next month”. But when you get there, having unhooked the garment from the rail you find a questionable slogan printed on the back of it: “Be more bagel”, “Prosecco = bae”, or “I don’t have a bike, but I avo-ca-do”. It is a constant necessity to inspect every item of clothing that you buy, just incase you run the risk of revealing to the public that you are actually a “unicorn in disguise”. Though, regardless of meaningless slogans, our obsession with sporting clothes which express our melancholy nature is also intriguing. There have been numerous social media outbursts in the past when stores such as Urban Outfitters have come under fire for the “glamorisation” of mental health difficulties; creating t-shirts with “depression” printed across it, posing the questions: 1) Who was stupid enough to think that was a good design? 2) Who would be stupid enough to buy it?
However, the bigger question is why do stores thrust upon us slogans based around the stressed, depressed and second best?
As people, we are connected by the fact we all experience similar thoughts, emotions, and situations. As a result of this, we all find it easy to relate to the things that reflect our current emotions, or ones that we have previously experienced. This is the reason that people (including myself) love Marley & Me, because we have the ability to relate to the pain and despondent emotions in the film. What do we do when we are sad? We grab a blanket, a tub of Ben&Jerry’s, stick on Marley & Me in the background, and sing along through our tears to Callum Scott’s cover of Dancing On My Own. We welcome negative emotions, sad songs and sad films far more than we welcome happiness and joy into our lives. This appears to be an ongoing and natural occurrence that we as individuals do on a daily basis. For example, it is far easier to write a poem about a break-up or a death than it is to write one about the moment someone asked you out, or the moment a child is born, and it is certainly far more interesting to read one about a negative situation than a happy one. Think to yourself, if someone said to you right now that you can either listen to Happy by Pharell Williams or Half The World Away by OASIS, which one would you pick? This is exactly the kind of mentality that I believe clothing stores pick up on in order to manipulate their customers into buying their ridiculous slogan tee-shirts.
This top is a prime example of the manipulation of that ideology. What does this slogan really mean? It uses the common technique of 3-factors, like most sayings. Though, you would not take down your “Live, Laugh, Love” sign to put this up, right? This slogan is basically labelling the wearer as a tired, coffee fuelled smoker (or someone who spits in the street or picks their nose and tastes it; whatever you would describe as a ‘bad habit’). The issue is that the store is attempting to make it fashionable to be tired, fuelled by coffee, and to lick your knife after you’ve eaten.
Another shot at fashionable negativity:
I think the most extraordinary aspect about slogan teeshirts is their lack of context behind the meaning of the writing. “No Thanks” to what? Is the t-shirt to be worn so that you can walk to and from ALDI and no one will think to stop you? Or is it so that you don’t have to reply when the cashier asks, “would you like a receipt?”. Either way, the slogan is still expressing a negative outlook, and we are far more likely to buy a top that reads “No Thanks” than “Yes, Please”… think of all those receipts.
Regardless of the negative situation that this slogan promotes, I am really struggling to think of an appropriate time/place to sport such a top. Would you wear it as a conversation starter? Would you wear it on a Tuesday afternoon whilst watching Bargain Hunt? You could even wear it to an interview to reassure the employers that you weren’t lying. Though, they could become slightly suspicious; a bit like wearing a top that reads ‘SINGLE’ to a first date. My concerns about the negativity behind slogan tee shirts aren’t necessarily rooted in tops such as these, as I don’t believe that anyone who sees this top in a store will think to themselves, “Fuck it. I’m going to quit my job so I can wear this top”. My concerns lie in how the promotion of this negativity may subconsciously affect us.
“Is Prosecco a carb?” – I get it. I understand why a store might think that this is okay to sell. After all, we all love getting floored off prosecco, but what this top does is reinforce our universal anxieties around weight gain. Why do stores think it is acceptable to glamorise the worries people have around weight. More importantly, this top may even diminish the severity of mind-sets that are in constant worry about what that person eats, how much they eat, or how many calories they have consumed that day. In many ways, this slogan promotes the same ideologies and thoughts as:
This method of playing on the negativity that we are attracted to may become incredibly detrimental for us. Stores such as Urban Outfitters have been scrutinised for certain slogans that it has produced, though “Is Prosecco a Carb” is a slogan from Topshop, which shows that stores do not really mind if they are subconsciously telling their customers to constantly watch how much they consume. Nor do they care if they are getting their customers to walk around in a top that reads “Unemployed” because at least they know there is a big proportion of society that is able to buy that top. As the companies that clothe us, they have an obligation to make sure that the opinions and thoughts that they advertise and promote are positive and inoffensive. Let’s be honest, the majority of people that are devoting their time to finding a job to support their family are not going to go to H&M and buy a fucking top that labels their current situation. Nor will anyone who cares about the anxieties around the way that people look or feel in their bodies will go out and buy a top promoting the monitoring of carbs, calories, or dieting. Until the designers around such tops come to the realisation that manipulating these negatives aspects of life, emotions, and situations is detrimental for those who have to read them, they will continue to exacerbate difficulties in our societies.