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.
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 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, 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.
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.
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.
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!