Examining the t-shirt as a canvas for radical subversion

An exhibition at the Fashion and Textile museum will shine a spotlight on the tee’s historical and cultural importance

The humble t-shirt has had some major cultural and historical sway, across politics, art, fashion and technology – all of which is due to be celebrated with a new exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum.

The show, titled T-shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion, will trace some of fashion’s biggest cultural shifts through the basic garment: from its beginnings as a men’s undershirt to a protest symbol emblazoned with slogans and a staple in just about every wardrobe. 

Over 100 shirts will be on display at the exhibit from across the last century, including those by Katharine Hamnett, Pam HoggGuerilla Girls and Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.

“The humble white t-shirt has come a long way since the days of Brando, Dean and Wayne,” says David Sinclair, The Civic’s exhibition curator. “It has been controversial, sexy, political, ironic and just plain cool. Who knows where it’s going to next?”

T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion opens at the Fashion and Textile Museum from February 9 2018 – May 6 2018 and will open at The Civic, Barnsley in summer 2018