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Why Vintage Political Shirts Matter

The Thread

Vintage Political Shirts have been rising in popularity over the last few years. Shirts with provocative text on them are also rising in popularity and people want to wear their beliefs and ideas on their clothing. We spoke with one of the best curators of vintage + modern political shirts, @protractedpeopleswardrobe, to hear his stance on why he likes to collect political shirts, and why it maters. Read more below:

  1. How did you get into collecting shirts expressing a political or idealogical perspective

“i’ve been into left-leaning politics for awhile but i actually first started out collecting vintage band t-shirts around 2015. after about 3 years of that, different circumstances shifted my interest towards leftist politics and i learned that the kinds of shirts that expressed my personal views existed and i decided that was all i wanted from then on. i have maybe 2 or 3 non-political shirts at this point lol”

  1. Why is it important to you?

“i could ramble on and on about worker exploitation, the housing crisis, income inequality, police brutality, white supremacy, the evils of democrats and republicans, US imperialism, creeping fascism and how all of those things are the result of the death and destruction required to keep the system of capitalism running and how the ultra wealthy profit from this system via the average working class person running their bodies into the ground until they die, all while creating the illusion of freedom and prosperity, stealing the value of their labor and convincing them that there is no alternative but i don’t want to bore your audience”.

  1. Is there such thing as activism through shirts?

“i wouldn’t say wearing a political t-shirt is activism but like any other it’s a good way to express yourself. the ones i wear have started many conversations, mostly productive ones, which allow me to share my opinions with someone who may not have thought about an issue from my point of view. i’ve realized that every single message on these shirts, some almost 40 years old, are still just as relevant today which is an extremely upsetting feeling”

  1. Has your t shirt interests led to any blowback?

“besides the few odd stares and whispers, no one has ever confronted me about any of them. i do get the occasional angry DM but they’re easy to laugh off. as far as my personal life, i’m pretty open about my views so everyone kind of expects me to be the annoying political guy”

  1. Any shirts you are on the lookout for?

“there are a few on my wish list, the most notable would be any of the conart anti-police t-shirts. there are some random ones i’ve seen in old protest photos but i’ve convinced myself that i will probably never come across most of them in my lifetime”

  1. Have you noticed it getting harder to find tees associated with political activism?

“i’ve definitely seen more people embracing them lately. i think people under 35 are more politically engaged than usual with most being pretty radical so a t-shirt that says eat the rich is less cringe than it was 15 years ago. the thing about these shirts is a lot of them were made in small batches for specific protests or causes so you’ll never see all of them. i’ve been able to keep my interest because every other day i see a new t-shirt i had no idea existed”

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