Harriet Walker: Roses are red, violets are blue, poetry on a T-shirt: Why? Not a clue

Related Topics

O sing Heav'nly Muse, that on hither High Street and thither Indoor Market didst inspire, Jumpers and T-shirts bedecked with Wrought Phrases and Poetic Turns, Exhortations and Inscriptions, with, erm... words.

I've hated slogan clothing for years, ever since someone wore a T-shirt that read "Never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die" to our sixth form one day, and was hailed as an alt-comic genius.

Imagine, then, my ire at the next generation of clothes with inane writing on: a range of cashmere jumpers emblazoned with lines from famous poems. Wordsmiths ransacked include Plath and Keats. Quite aside from the inevitable meaninglessness that comes of being quoted on knitwear, this strikes me as disrespectful in two ways: first, that plastering the brilliantly eloquent but essentially broken-minded phrases of a depressive across your boobs isn't much of a memorial; and second – a terrible irony this – that if Keats had only managed to get hold of a cashmere jumper in the first place, maybe he wouldn't have got that nasty cough.

Still, applause to anyone who manages to fit "Every woman adores a fascist" across their front; you can just imagine a punk marching it round Camden Market with a face on like a grumpy sausage dog.

But really, why anyone would want clothes with writing on is beyond me. The aspirational allure of a designer name scrawled across your solar plexus I can just about understand (even if it is tacky), but I'm foxed by the number of people who choose to advertise their friendship rituals ("I'm with Stupid") or psychological make-up ("99 per cent angel, 1 per cent devil").

Words on clothes imply an expectation that everyone else cares what's going on in your head. It's just a different way of playing the tiresome office clown, and no one will want to stand next to you on the bus if your T-shirt suggests you're a psychopath – or worse, a poetry fan.

I don't argue all this from a clothing purist's perspective; quite the opposite – if fashion is one of the only genuine forms of self-expression left in this commercialised modern era, then why express yourself by way of some corporate graphic designer's tired idioms and over-exposed bons mots? Get over yourself and go and read a book, so that words go into your head, rather than over it. A few exceptions, naturally: a jumper with your name on strikes me as rather sweet and pragmatic for your first day in a new job, for example; and bonus points to anyone who manages to get Milton into their wardrobe, the verbose old bugger.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn