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Graphic tees have been a longtime staple of streetwear. And for good reason, too. They were easy to make make, inexpensive to buy, and served as an informal badge of allegiance, whether it be towards a sport, political view, or sub-culture. However, sometime during the last decade, the graphic T-shirt had lost its cool—thanks in large part to its success. But according to Business of Fashion, these tees are making a comeback.
You see, around the early 2000s, major fashion companies began to take note of this trend and were drawn to how easy they were to make. Even struggle brands took note, hoping their graphic tees would propel them to popularity. It wasn’t long before the market became over saturated and young people began to replace their graphic tees with more basic alternatives—specifically cut-and-sew designs.
But in recent years, several fashion-forward retailers have began to put an emphasis on these shirts again. This weekend, Dover Street Market London set up a display dedicated entirely to their graphic tee selection, which included designs by independent companies and big-name brands like Undercover, Palace, and Gosha Rubchinskiy.
Craig Ford, director of menswear retailer and distribution company A Number of Names* (anon*), told BoF that graphic tees made up 35 percent of business, which he admits is far too much. But he explains that the resurgence has also gave way to an evolution. The new wave of tees aren’t anchored by ironic slogans or frat-guy humor; they’re much more considered and definitely a lot more sophisticated.
“They are all bold and graphic,” Ford tells BoF. “They have clean lines with messages and signifiers that can be perceived as simple and accessible but also as sophisticated and esoteric.”
The piece goes on to explore various companies, including record labels and sports brands, that have used the graphic tee to push their businesses forward. Apparently, the cult factor is still one of the most powerful elements of graphic tee, as it often makes the wearer feel as though they belong to something.
You can read the full piece here.