Wear Your Cause: Political T-Shirts Are in Fashion Ahead of the Midterms

4:53 PM 10/11/2018

by Syl Tang

Wear your cause.

Katy Perry
Katy Perry
David Becker/Getty Images

From Dior's "I Am a Feminist" T-shirts on the Paris runways, to Hollywood stars' wearing all-black on the 2018 Golden Globes red carpet, fashion, like everything else, has become political. Recently, issues surrounding women's rights have given birth to several female-owned companies that are advocating for gender equality by selling T-shirts, tote bags and keychains that are becoming the uniform of the resistance during protest marches from coast to coast. Here are a few of Hollywood's favorites, each of which donate a varying amount of proceeds to political causes, putting conscientious consumerism into action. 

  • The Outrage

    Kisha Bari

    When Rebecca Lee Funk was alongside Amy Schumer protesting Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation, alongside her was a she was wearing a T-shirt that read,“We All Came from a Woman.” The shirt is part of Funk’s label The Outrage, which she started in October of 2016. "I thought we'd be a celebratory brand for the first female president," she says. "Plot twist. Trump was elected."

    The Outrage redefined itself as a cause-related company for intersectional issues, opening a Washington D.C. pop-up to raise funds for the Women's March, and partnering with March for Our Lives and March for Science. The company has also registered thousands of voters in the last two years.

    Fans include Piper Perabo, Alyssa Milano, America Ferrara, Debra Messing, Sophia Bush and Rose McGowan, who collaborated on a collection that benefited the East Los Angeles Women's Center.

    Funk says,“Right now our best sellers are hands down the 'Dr. Blasey Ford is a Hero' and 'Anita Hill is a Hero' t-shirts. We released them to raise money to fund travel to D.C. for people to protest the confirmation...Fashion [is] an entry point to activism and we're here to help people get and stay engaged.” 

     

  • Prinkshop

    Meredith Jenks

    New York city-based Prinkshop’s best-seller is a shirt emblazoned with 1973, the year of the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which granted women the right to abortion across the country. With all eyes on whether Kavanaugh’s replacement of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy might overturn Roe once and for all, sales of the 1973 shirt, which benefit the National Institute for Reproductive Health, have shot through the roof.

    Founder Pamela Bell likes to think of her business, founded in 2016 with the "You see a girl I see a future shirt" in partnership with the U.N. GIRLUP Foundation, as an advocacy design group around the world's most pressing issues, that happens to make clothing and accessories. She also seeks transparency in her supply chain. Her largest supplier, in Port Washington, New York, has a workforce that is 73 percent adults with autism. Tote bags made in New Hampshire are done in a factory owned by women, and so forth.

    The formula has attracted a starry following including Willow Smith, Tea Leoni, Jane Rosenthal, Alysia Reiner, Mark Herzlich, Sarah Sophie Flickr and Greta Gerwig, “Those wearing our clothes become advocates," Bell says of her line, sold online and at Fred Segal and J Crew.

  • Shrill Society

    Amanda Brinkman went to bed on Oct.19, with no intention of becoming a viral sensation. She was watching the presidential debate in October 2016 when Trump called Clinton, a "nasty woman," and reacted by mocking up shirts, thinking she might sell “3-5 shirts total”. She woke up to 10,000 orders and her business Shrill Society was born.

    "Conversations can happen now due to movements like #metoo that weren’t happening on such a large scale just 2 years ago,” says Brinkman, whose customers include Katy Perry, Kristen Bell, Will Ferrell, Michelle Monaghan, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Other popular T-shirt slogans include "RIP Patriarchy" and "Up With Witches." She sends out a bi-weekly newsletter to 14,000 subscribers called "The Shout" which covers everything from politics to pop culture, and has also launched a Nasty Woman card game with Penguin Random House.

    Syl Tang is a futurist and author of Disrobed, a book about the role clothing plays in global events from climate change to terrorism. Instagram: @hipguide