Fashion: Written on the body

Your T-shirt says more about you than mere personality ever can.
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The Independent Culture
The humble T-shirt is one of the easiest and cheapest forms of making a statement. Katharine Hamnett found fame through her anti-nuclear T-shirt slogan "58 per cent Say No To Pershing" and "Choose Life" in 1983, and is still on the campaign trail with her latest, "Passports for Pets". "Frankie Says Relax" is another classic of the genre. But that was the Eighties. Today the T-shirt is more fashionable than political.

In the past few years we've had the kiddies' T-shirt trend, thanks to Paula Yates and Yasmin Le Bon plundering their daughters' wardrobes for Little Miss Trouble, Minnie Mouse and their ilk; and the Trainspotting trend when everyone wanted one like Ewan McGregor's, which was an original Seventies number that should have stayed in the 5p bin at Oxfam.

More recently the unisex street label YMC have taken a graph paper print and put it on T-shirts, Vivienne Westwood cuts them on the bias and charges pounds 105 for the privilege, and high street stores Warehouse and French Connection cover them with beads and sequins. A sign of the times, certainly, but there are some obsessives who go to greater lengths for the ultimate T- shirt.

Fashion designer John Rocha, for example, has 12 identical white T-shirts made for him twice a year because the design (his own from three years ago) flatters his shape. He is not alone. Kenneth Mackenzie, the designer of men's label 6876, has a thing about Agnes B and Comme des Garcons long- sleeved T-shirts and always makes sure he's stocked up.

Mackenzie and Rocha represent the purist approach. Anyone with more than a passing interest in looking well turned out - ie anyone who works in fashion, arts or design-related fields - will have a bit of this purist streak in their blood. The shape, style, fabric and colour -black, white or grey - must be just so (mine's a Gap slim-fit V-neck that, annoyingly, has been discontinued). Stylist Holly Wood favours an early Eighties Vivienne Westwood Seditionaries T-shirt). Once the right T-shirt is found it is difficult to change, and everyone has their own favourite.

Aside from black, white and grey classics, however, there is another world of T-shirts out there. The big and baggy, that can be bought from any market; the sporty, such as Adidas, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger, and the tiny, from kid's shops. The trendy, the arty and the cool are a different matter and are subject to personal tastes, but this lot are a pretty good example. We spent all weekend putting them on customers at a McDonald's drive-thru in East London.

One of the favourites of the day was from Antoni & Alison, the duo who changed the face of T-shirt fashion in the early Nineties by plastering "Love It" across the front of a classic tee. They began a fad for slogan T-shirts that proclaimed everything about their wearer from "Babe" to "Whore".

"The lipstick one is about all the things you can find in your make-up case," says Antoni, whose passion for the T-shirt has not waned after 10 years in the business. "When we first started to work with them it was because the T-shirt was taken for granted and overlooked. Then it became something we could play with." And play with it they do. Their latest bestseller is printed simply with "1974".

"We had a guy drive up to the shop on Saturday in his big car who walked in, bought 1974, and walked out wearing it."

According to Antoni "1974" can mean anything. Alison says: "It reminds me of the year I played the little lamb in a nativity play." Antoni reveals: "I was experimenting with my Ziggy Stardust-inspired hair and make-up."

Unfortunately 1974 was out of stock at the time of the shoot, but we are reliably informed that there will be more by the end of the week. Tamsin Blanchard is on holiday

Tee Stockists

Oeuf, enquiries 0171-379 4660

Born Free mail order and enquiries 0171-837 4757

Generic Costume and Union

from Browns Focus, enquiries

0171-629 0666

French Connection, nationwide enquiries 0171-399 7200

YMC available nationwide, enquiries 0171-251 8861

Antoni and Alison, available from Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1, and the Antoni & Alison

shop, stockist enquiries

0171-833 2002