The Most Iconic Graphic T-Shirts

Everyone seems have a list of the most iconic graphic t-shirts. That’s cool and all… but this is a list of OUR favorites that you might not see on every other blog.  These iconic tees have woven their way into the collective zeitgeist. Without further ado here they are in no particular order.

Harley Davidson


Perhaps one of the most powerful brands in the world, Harley Davidson isn’t just a motorcycle but a way of life.  This graphic tee is symbolic of freedom, community, heritage, handlebar mustaches, and a cult-like following.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse made his debut in Steamboat Willie way back in 1928. Characterized as a cheerful optimist with an adventurous and mischievous streak, who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse? Actually, Ed Daddy Roth doesn’t. He created the Rat Fink character over his hatred of Mickey Mouse.


Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax

When it comes to ubiquitous recognition, this might not be up there with Mickey Mouse or Harley Davidson but if you were in Southern California during the 1970’s or 1980’s Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax was everywhere. A stroke of genius when it came to naming, surfers, non-surfers and probably anyone with a libido proudly repped this tee.




Maui and Sons

While we’re on the topic of surf culture, we have to mention Maui and Sons. A hot pink shark wearing Ray Ban-eque shades, surrounded by geometric shapes of various neon colors is really the apex of 80’s and early 90’s fashion.


Bones Brigade

Bones Brigade, the skateboarding team that rode under Powell Peralta had hands-down the BEST graphics. We’re torn on which one is more iconic: Rat Bones or the Winged Ripper so we’re gonna go with both.





I’m a Pepper

“I’m a Pepper. He’s a Pepper. She’s a Pepper. We’re a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?” The year was 1977 and David Naughton, who later went on to star in  “An American Werewolf in London” brought us this catchy tune. It was so popular of an ear-worm, we just had to put it on a t-shirt. Only in America, folks.


Rolling Stones

In 1969, artist John Pasche drew up this logo for £50. This logo has gone on to become one of the most instantly recognizable and lucrative brand identities on the planet. (A lesson to know your own worth, people!) Jagger wanted a likeness Kali, the Hindu goddess of everlasting energy but Pasche drew more inspiration from Jagger’s sensuous lips.



Who Shot JR?

In 1980 Dallas fans had to wait a long tortuous summer to find out the answer to this question. Spoiler alert: I shot JR. 


All I got was this lousy t-shirt

Parents go to Hawaii without you? Or spend summer in Paris while you stayed home watching reruns of the Twilight Zone with the baby sitter? For a moment in time it was popular to bring back a souvenir tee that said “My parents went to ___ and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”.  Yes, mom, I would love more salt to rub in this wound. And can I please have a Pepsi?


Frankie Says RELAX

The shirt inspired from song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The graphic tee sported big bold letters – the design simple and to the point.  The song lyrics were supposedly about motivation but the BBC had a different interpretation and banned the song from the airwaves.  As a result of being banned, the song rose to #1 in the UK charts. Someone should’ve told the BBC to just RELAX.




Choose Life

This shirt was worn by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! in the video for Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. The slogan is promoting an anti-drug and anti-suicide campaign.  Great message to go along with a great song.


Iron Maiden Killers

Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie has helped them sell quite a few shirts over the years.  But the band’s 1981 album Killers that boasts the most icon Eddie to this day. Though we think that 1986’s Somewhere in Time at close 2nd.





I’m with Stupid

Fun fact: In 2015, in Queensland Australia a man was arrested for wearing this shirt at a political rally.



Run DMC embraced a street style that would define the next 25 years of hip hop fashion.  The no-nonsense logo with two thick red lines and bold Franklin Gothic font is bold and timeless just like their rhymes.


Rock the Vote

Speaking of politics, Rock the Vote was founded in 1990 with the noble mission “to engage and build the political power of young people.” Still going strong today, now more then ever we need the up-and-coming generation to be engaged in the political process. Yo, Rock the Vote!






A Brief History of Screen Printing

The history of screen printing originated in China during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). Other countries like Japan adapted new methods using simple stenciling techniques. The stencils were from paper and the mesh was woven from human hair; stiff brushes were used to force ink through the mesh onto the fabric.

History of Screen PrintingSome time in the late 18th century, screen printing was introduced to Western Europe from Asia. However, it did not gain large acceptance until silk mesh was available for trade from the east. Stiff brushes were still being used as a way to push ink through the mesh.

In the early 20th century, printers began using photo-emulsions to create stencils on screens and squeegees were introduced to pull the ink through the mesh.  Printers also discovered it was possible to create multi-colored images. These innovations would revolutionize the commercial screen printing industry. By WWII, examples of screen printing could be seen on advertisement posters, military tanks, and t-shirts. 

Modern Day Screen Printing

Andy Warhol's screen printed Marilyn Dyptich

While the history of screen printing is centuries old, Artist Andy Warhol is credited with popularizing screen printing as a mainstay of pop culture.  The iconic Marilyn Diptych being one of his most noted works. The commercialization of screen printing on garments as we know it today came with the advent of the rotatable multicolor garment screen printing machine in 1960.  Originally manufactured to print logos and team information on bowling garments, but soon the new fad of printing on T-shirts began to take off.  


The Printing Technique

Screen printing starts with screen made of a piece of mesh stretched over a frame. For the mesh to be effective, it must be mounted on a frame and it must be under tension. There are different mesh counts for different kinds of prints. Lower mesh counts are used for shimmer and glitter inks while higher mesh counts are good for details and give the prints a “softer” hand touch. 

Exposing or “burning the screen” is a term used for the process of creating a stencil on the screen. The screen is first coated in photo emulsion, a “negative” of the artwork is placed on the screen and then the screen is exposed the light. The areas of the screen exposed to light make the emulsion solid bind to the screen. The areas protected from the light remain water-soluble and can be washed away.  Each ink color requires a it’s own screen to be burned. 

Once the screens are burned and the ink is mixed, the printing process can begin. The screens are mounted on the press, the ink is placed on top of the screen and pulled through the mesh with a squeegee onto the garment. The garment is then put through a dryer to “cure” the ink. 

Screen Printing vs. Digital

It depends on the specifics of your project, it depends. Digital or Direct to Garment (DTG) works a lot like an inkjet printer. It takes a digital image and transfers it directly to your garment.  DTG is good for small runs and / or very elaborate designs with many of colors. 

Screen printing is a more labor intensive process and a skilled craft that when done right produces beautiful, vibrant, and durable results. Screen printing is more cost effective for larger batches. The more you print the less it costs per garment! 

Here at Camputee Press, we specialize in the screen printing technique. 

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