Who needs social media when you can wear a personal statement right on your chest? For men, graphic tee fashion has long been a means of self-expression, be it artistic or political. Read on to learn how to make the most of this creative wardrobe cornerstone.
A brief history of the graphic T-shirt
Graphic T-shirts first came onto the fashion scene with the college tees of the 1950s, before becoming a favored political tool for activists in the 1960s. In the 1970s, British designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren elevated graphic tees to fashion statements with irreverent messages from the punk scene. Then when the 1980s rolled around, musicians like George Michael sported graphic tees by designer Katharine Hamnett bearing social messages like CHOOSE LIFE. And in the 1990s, Woody Harrelson popularized the "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics" graphic T-shirt in the movie "White Men Can't Jump."
Perhaps the most memorable graphic tee moment of the new millennium was when fashion label Vetements' sent its "luxury" take on the DHL logo tee down its runway. Subversions aside, the once humble T-shirt is now a collection centerpiece for many fashion designers, who adorn it with everything from minimalistic motifs to full digital illustrations.
How to wear a graphic tee
The great thing about T-shirts is that they're masters of versatility. Here's how to embrace your graphic tee style.
For the creative or more casual workplace, spice up an on-trend pastel suit by wearing a graphic T-shirt instead of the expected button-down. Choose one of this season's tropical floral or landscape motifs in sunset-inspired warmer hues. Keep accessories minimal, wear easy lace-up Oxfords, and let the T-shirt do the talking.
On the town
Headed out with the guys? Graphic tees are an easy go-to especially with abstract artwork and tattoo-style prints. Pull on a leather jacket to accentuate the T-shirt's existential attitude, then round off the look with slim-fit chinos and canvas sneakers.
Here's your chance to show your athletic side (even if your sport of choice is couch-surfing). Show your love for your local team or go for retro, Olympics-inspired graphic tee fashion. Polish the look with slim-fit joggers, a bucket hat, and a track jacket in a coordinating color. This is a perfect time to break out those retro-style trainers.
A T-shirt with a message can provide that extra motivation you need to crank out that last rep at the gym. When made from today's performance fibers, the right tee can even provide an edge. Show off the art to its best advantage by pairing it with solid workout shorts, a baseball cap, and cross-trainers.
Of course, today's most popular graphic tee trend is to make a slick statement up top, and be totally relaxed below with high-quality sweatpants. For cooler days, layer a vintage newsprint or cartoon-style tee with a zip-front shirt jacket that won't obscure the design. Slip into slides, grab a belt bag, and you're ready for everything from a video conference to shopping to outdoor cocktails.
Finally, a men's graphic T-shirt is the answer when you're just not sure what to wear. Throw on one of these personal works of art with a pair of jeans for the ultimate egalitarian statement, or add a little summertime pizzazz to a pair of basic shorts or swim trunks.