Ready To Wear: There's nothing much that's stealthy about a slogan T-shirt
Fashion is attention seeking.
This much we know. That sentiment might express itself in a "look at me in total-look Junya Watanabe being a beautiful alien" kind of way. Or it might be a more discreet statement than that. The term used to describe the latter is "stealth wealth": only a select few onlookers will understand the extreme credibility – and indeed expense – of a perfectly simple, and even more perfectly proportioned, lightweight cashmere coat, say. Whatever, either path is adopted by people who care about their physical appearance, however they might argue to the contrary, and, importantly, about what other people think of their choice of clothes.
The puritanical British often frown upon such peacock tendencies that they perceive as an expression of wanton vanity, however subtle they may be. Others, though, will oblige, cooing in quiet admiration over a pair of Celine trousers, for example, which they know are Celine trousers because the person wearing them is on stilts.
Is Mario Balotelli looking for such tacit approval when he wears a T-shirt printed with WHY ALWAYS ME? beneath his sky-blue strip? There's nothing much stealthy about a slogan T-shirt, it has to be said, particularly not when its owner chooses to flash it for the fans at the least given opportunity. The same goes for Balotelli's RAFFAELLA TI AMO that is understandable, perhaps, given the woman in question's indisputable assets but is childishly indulgent nonetheless.
Just as sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, the slogan T-shirt is the lowest form of statement dressing. We've all winced at the sight of girls striding out in a T-shirt that shouts STOP LOOKING AT MY BOOBS when, far from achieving ironic, post-feminist status, quite the opposite reaction is provoked. Ditto: T-shirts that read GORGEOUS, HELLO BOYS and so forth.
Lurking in my bottom drawer is the exception that proves the rule. The garment in question is a black T-shirt, now green with age, emblazoned with: PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT. Its decrepitude decrees that I no longer wear it, but both sentimental value and the brilliance of the words, make me incapable of parting with it. My T-shirt was written not by an unimaginative opportunist, you see, but by Jenny Holzer. And that makes it art.
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