Whether they’re custom print tees or compressed shirts, T shirts are as American as apple pie. Being the second largest cotton producer and the largest exporter of the crop, it should come as no surprise that 95% of Americans wear T shirts. In fact, Americans love T shirts so much that nine out of 10 own at least one T shirt they hold onto year after year, just for its sentimental value.
Businesses have long capitalized off Americans’ love of T shirts by using custom designed tee shirts to raise brand awareness and build brand loyalty. They’re an excellent way to reinforce and supplement both print, internet, television, and mobile advertising campaigns.
Similarly, promotional Tshirts are often use to raise awareness and draw attention to causes such as breast cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Most recently, civil rights activists, protesters, and even celebrities used promo T shirts emblazoned with Eric Garner’s last words — “I can’t breathe!” — in order to show their opposition to police brutality.
However, how far is too far? Custom designed tee shirts recently made headlines once again when Thai fashion designer created a T shirt depicting noted grunge musician Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Initially sold on eBay and Etsy, the shirts were promptly removed once people began expressing their distaste on Reddit and over social media.
According to Etsy, users are prohibited from selling items that “support or glorify acts of violence or harm towards self or others.” Meanwhile, eBay prohibits “items that promote or glorify human tragedy, hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance.”
While this is the first piece of tasteless Cobain-related merchandise to have been created, it did pose the question of how far is too far in regards to T shirt design. Social media has provided a platform for this discussion to take place, with users weighing in on why they feel it is disrespectful and distasteful.
However, when used properly, custom designed tee shirts and merchandise and be used for the greater good.