Icons, Politics and Gangstas: 15 years of T-Shirt Designs

Icons, Politics and Gangstas: 15 years of T-Shirt Designs

Spreadshirt 15th anniversary is a very big reason to celebrate. As we approach the cusp of our business-youthfulness, we’d like to honor all those who have raised attention with t-shirt designs during the last 15 years. Walk with us down Memory Lane as we review design trends from the last 15 years that reflect not only a growing company, but a changing world. Three cheers for your ideas as we celebrate the t-shirt as a medium for expressing them!

2002 – 2006

In 2002, “I Love” prints in all variations became very fashionable. The big “I” with the red heart originated from an American advertising campaign in the 70s.To boost the tourism of New York City—which was a highly disreputable city at that time—the slogan “I Love New York” and its famous typeface was invented. Today, we don’t only see the “I Love” designs in gift shops of New York, but also on t-shirts, mugs and tote bags worldwide. In 2003, the peace dove as a t-shirt design was flying high. This is hardly surprising, as in March of 2003, the war in Iraq started with the bombardment of Bagdad. In the following year, “Los Angeles” designs became very popular either because of a developing trend to wear clothing emblazoned with the name of the wearer’s home town or because of the NBA finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons. Although the Lakers were the heavy favorite, the Pistons took home the championship trophy. The next year shows the popularity of Wes Anderson’s film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”. The film stars Bill Murray as the eponymous Zissou, an eccentric oceanographer who sets out to exact revenge on the “jaguar shark” that ate his partner Esteban. In 2006, another man was the center of attention and the year was marked by toughness, attitude, virility, sophistication, and masculinity. Chuck Norris facts had become a worldwide phenomenon, and his famous portrait could be seen on many t-shirts.

2007 – 2011

In 2007, the British author Robert Muchamore made his mark with Cherub, a series of young-adult spy novels. The stories focused on young people who were trained to be secret agents at the Cherub campus and sent on top secret missions. On November 4, 2008, the 56th US Presidential election was held. Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama became the first African-American ever to be elected President of the United States. With his campaign slogan “Yes We Can”, he didn’t only win the votes but also the title of #1 t-shirt-design of the year. In 2009, another American found fame. Shane Dawson, one of the first YouTube celebrities, hit the scene with comedy videos that were viewed by millions of people. In the following year, the entertainment industry was hyped once again. Taylor Gang is an independent record label based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2010, the founder and rapper Wiz Khalifa shaped the “Taylor Gang” lifestyle that revolved around getting high, staying drunk and getting money. A famous body pose conquered the World Wide Web in 2011 and everyone wanted to be part of the photo chain. Not only did “Tebowing” go viral on the internet, but also on t-shirts. The pose was named after the Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow who was photographed taking a knee and placing his elbow on the knee with his fist against his forehead, similar to a prayer or the well-known “Thinker’s pose”.

2012 – 2016

In 2012, a political movement stemming from a short documentary film gained worldwide notoriety. Kony 2012 is a film produced by the NGO Invisible Children. The film’s purpose was to promote the charity’s “Stop Kony” movement. It shed a light on Ugandan cult and militia leader, indicted war criminal and International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony globally known and resulted in his arrest at the end of 2012 when the campaign expired. In 2013, the world turned upside down once again when bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As an expression of Boston’s unity after the bombings, the slogan “Boston Strong” was born and showed up on a lot of t-shirts. In the following year, another campaign made the rounds. “Black Lives Matter” is an international activist movement against violence and perceived racism towards black people. The organization became nationally recognized for its street demonstrations following the questionable deaths of two African-Americans in 2014. In the 80s, the streets of Compton, LA were the most dangerous in the US. LA was a city of gangs and in the vanguard of the country’s homicide rate. The 2015 film Straight Outta Compton gave some insight into the ghettos and streets of LA and told the story of the meteoric rise and fall of the gangsta rap group N.W.A. The slogan “Straight Outta” with all city variations showed up around the world. From a gangsta to a president, the year 2016 was shaped by a certain iconic (if not infamous) blonde hair-do, and Trump-designs were the hands-down best sellers.

There you have it: an in-short review of 15 years of Spreadshirt t-shirt design history. We look forward to fifteen more years of non-blonde-blow-dried ideas from all of you out there who have helped us become what we are today. We couldn’t have gotten here without you!

Which one is your favourite? Any design or hype missing that you would like to add?

Leave a Reply

* Checkbox is required


I agree