When Lord Lucan disappeared in 1974 after his children’s nanny was found murdered in his Belgravia home, my uncle took action. Because he sported a moustache and was dark-haired and of a similar age, he had a t-shirt printed with the caption ‘I am not Lord Lucan’. This was the first slogan t-shirt I ever saw.
It was about a decade later when I got my first and didn’t know then that it would become an iconic piece of 80s memorabilia. In a record shop in Exeter, a friend and I each bought a ‘Choose Wham!” (not ‘Choose Life’) t-shirt and put them on in the ladies in Debenhams. We then strutted around the shops… A couple of years later, I ran the world in those same streets and had the t-shirt for that too.
The 80s was a great time to be a student, not only because we had full grants, but because we had a prime target: Thatcher. The campus at Lancaster was always full of Smash the Tories, etc. And no student was a proper student without a Smiths t-shirt of some description.
These days slogan t-shirts have lost their power and tend to be ‘humorous’ or ironic (‘Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls’ was one I saw around Teignmouth last summer). They are also printed up by school-leavers, hen-and-stag parties, and any group or sports club going.
I don’t wear them now I am a woman of a certain age (apart from as pyjama tops). But I still treasure my Choose Wham t-shirt as it sums up my teenage years. Not quite cool but proud of it.