Checklist for t-shirt lovers of what to avoid

Kai Eriksson

Posted on November 20 2017

I used to be one of those guys who valued the generic t-shirt highly, being always enthusiastic about the evolution of this piece of clothing. Then something happened.


I realized that the new styles are actually far from being original and that the choices I have made do not, in fact, represent me at all.


One of our main reasons for founding Diiple was that we were getting absolutely tired of ‘corporate t-shirts.’ That is, shirts that basically just advertise the company’s logo, whether in big letters over the chest or on a small label above the hem—or both.  


This type of advertising is something we rarely stop to think about. But we should. 


In the United States, the market for casual wear has increased dramatically during the last twenty years, with a similar trend going on in Europe. In particular, the market for t-shirts (and singlets) has risen steadily. In 2010, it was 6.7 billion euros, which grew to 8.6 billion euros in 2016 (European Commission).


So, we’re talking about serious money.


Despite the growth, the t-shirts on offer are not very stylistically diverse. In general, mainstream premium shirts are relatively conventional in both style and print design, I think.


What’s more, the prints are usually intentionally meaningless as large clothing companies want to avoid polarizing their customer base.


So, many big brands consider their names, trademarks or logos safe ground in this regard. If you want to avoid nonsensical prints, then the choice is basically between indie or logo aesthetics.


While Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger logo t-shirts, for instance, were all the rage in the 1990s, they have been revived and become popular once again. Although logo t-shirts are throwback styles, they also represent the core aesthetics for many streetwear brands.


But, don’t more people see this as a problem? Why do we accept walking around as a billboard for big corporations? Many popular brands are part of big fashion industry groups, even though they don’t make it widely known.


So, the paradox is that the early adopters of new urban fashions end up propping up old establishments and their safe stylistic choices.


Don’t misunderstand. I'm not blaming anyone. I'm just wondering. Why do intelligent consumers see a logo shirt as an exciting fashion choice, when it’s really a bland and repetitive part of the history of streetwear?


With this in mind, I compiled four propositions and a checklist for those of us who love t-shirts. 



  • Logo shirts restrict the evolution of t-shirt aesthetics
  • If nonsensical designs still have a relation with sense (they are nonsensical precisely because they are missing sense), logo designs break from this relation.
  • Logo shirts replace new with old, diversity with homogeneity, and change with familiarity.
  • They reduce a world of possibilities to an unimaginative aesthetic that is fully under the brand’s control.



    • I’m not contributing to the uniformity of streetwear aesthetics.
    • I’m not letting corporate symbols define who I am.
    • The design on my t-shirt is meaningful to me.
    • I’m not a billboard for impersonal brands. 



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