10 Awesome and Iconic T-Shirts in Pop Culture

T-shirts serve many purposes. They can express intelligence and wit via geeky sayings and inside jokes. They can declare undying love for a band, musician, celebrity, or film. They can pledge allegiance to a sports team or insult another. Some t-shirts are more than t-shirts. They are statements of personality, external expressions of internal thoughts and feelings. Some of these t-shirt statements have become more universal than others. Here are ten examples of t-shirts that have been catapulted to the apex of pop culture infamy.

 

SHIRT: MICKEY MOUSE

WHO WORE IT: EMILIO ESTEVEZ IN THE OUTSIDERS

Emilio Estevez played Two-Bit in the 1983 book-turned-movie, The Outsiders. On set, Estevez came up with the idea for his character to be obsessed with Mickey Mouse, which resulted in his wardrobe consisting entirely of sleeveless tees featuring the cartoon.  This adlib pushed his secondary character, as well as Mr. Mouse, into the spotlight to become a memorable part of the landmark film.

 

The Outsiders Mickey Mouse T-Shirt

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: NEW YORK CITY

WHO WORE IT: JOHN LENNON

In 1974, John Lennon wore his own New York City t-shirt on the roof of his apartment building for a photo shoot; these images were used for the promotion of his album, Walls & Bridges. In an interview, the photographer who snapped the famous pictures said that the Beatles musician described NYC as the center of the world. The portraits of Lennon are so famous that the picture of him WEARING a shirt is ALSO a shirt.    

 

John Lennon NYC T-Shirt

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: THE RAMONES LOGO

WHO WORE IT: PUNK ROCKERS EVERYWHERE

Chances are that you either own or know someone that owns a Ramones t-shirt. Even the Ramones themselves wore their band tees on stage while performing. The shirt’s logo-turned-fashion-statement was created in the 1970s after artist Arturo Vega took a trip to Washington, D.C. The shirts were designed to look like the presidential seal, eagle and all, and included the band’s line-up. Now, it seems like the image has been slapped onto nearly everything: coffee cups, baseball hats, lunchboxes, backpacks, shoes. But, the shirt came first, just like the Ramones in punk music.

 

The Ramones Fan T-Shirts

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: PLAIN, WHITE UNDERSHIRT

WHO WORE IT: JAMES DEAN

James Dean represented teenage angst when he donned a plain white undershirt in Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s. By ditching the conservative button-down dress shirt, Dean stood for all that was cool, with an air of rebellion and youth. The basic white tee is often paired with blue jeans and is still considered hip today, even though the style of the pants may change over the years. An example of classic cool in more modern times? Brandon from Beverly Hills, 90210. He even had a leather jacket!

 

James Dean White T-Shirts

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: COLLEGE

WHO WORE IT: JOHN BELUSHI IN ANIMAL HOUSE

You just moved into your dorm room your freshman year of college. You want to decorate, so you search for a poster to glorify the quintessential party attitude of university life. Finally, you find it. John Belushi with a distressed look on his face, wearing a sweater that simply reads “COLLEGE.” Belushi's character loved being at school so much, he was there for seven long years. That amounts to a lot of weekends. Yes, his shirt is technically NOT a t-shirt, but its appearance in Animal House has symbolized party life on campus since the 1970s. 

 

Animal House College T-Shirt

Image found here.

SHIRT: VOTE FOR PEDRO

WHO WORE IT: NAPOLEON DYNAMITE

In a pre-Juno world before things got Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite stood as the solitary geek in the modern movie universe; his socially awkward antics turned the low-budget Napoleon Dynamite into a cult classic. In the movie, our nerdy hero donned a "Vote for Pedro" ringer tee to support his friend in a school election, but Napoleon was also starting a fashion trend that was a large part of mid-2000s pop culture. The “Vote for Pedro” logo became immediately successful and could be found at stores ranging from Target to Hot Topic. Gosh!

 

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: HULKAMANIA

WHO WORE IT: HULKAMANIACS

After Hulk Hogan won his very first WWF Championship title in 1984, the announcer declared “Hulkamania is here!!” He was right. Hulkamania was soon emblazoned in red text on the yellow t-shirts worn by Hogan fans everywhere. One wonders, though – out of all the Hulkamania t-shirts sold, how many of those were torn apart during displays of macho questioning of what was to be done if Hulkamania was to run wild, brother?

 

Hulkamania T-Shirt

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: FRANKIE SAY RELAX

WHO WORE IT: FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

In the 80s, large-letter logo tees were incredibly popular. George Michael wore a “CHOOSE LIFE” shirt in the Wham! video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” but a more memorable shirt-turned-fashion-trend was Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “FRANKIE SAY RELAX!” This shirt was a successful marketing tool for the band, but it was also used as political soapbox; the message referred to the growing AIDS crisis and how gay males should relax and take extra precautions to be safe. Now, the tee is a staple of 80s fashion and pop culture, referenced in the movie The Wedding Singer and the TV show Friends.

 

Frankie Say Relax T-Shirt

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: THE FLASH

WHO WORE IT: SHELDON COOPER

Dr. Sheldon Cooper may have a fictional doctorate, but his love for The Flash is no joke. One of the main characters on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is a comic book geek through and through. He usually dons a Flash t-shirt, but his love goes so deep that Sheldon once braved a spandex unitard to emulate his hero. Interestingly, many fans of the show don’t recognize the lightning bolt logo on Sheldon’s shirt as The Flash’s, so they simply seek out “Sheldon shirts.”

 

Image found here.

 

SHIRT: "HI, HOW ARE YOU" ALIEN

WHO WORE IT: KURT COBAIN

The Place: MTV Video Music Awards. The Year: 1992. Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt featuring the cover art of an obscure artist’s album. The image was a black and white drawing of an alien, with the caption “Hi, How Are You.” Kurt’s attention paid to Daniel Johnston, then an underground musician, resulted in a record deal for Johnston and an iconic shirt for rock history. Goes to show what one little wardrobe choice can result in, doesn't it?

 

Image found here.

What do you think? Let us know if you feel that there are other shirts that deserve to be on the list!

MaDonna Sheehy

MaDonna is the Lead Brand Specialist at Shirts.com and simply cannot pick her favorite style of t-shirt. Perhaps a concert tee with Morrissey’s lovely face on it. Or maybe a top that features her favorite Pokemon, Slowpoke! Who knows! Today she’s wearing a tank top that features all of the Zodiac symbols. Tomorrow? It’s a mystery.


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