Get Shirty with a new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London which looks at the history of the humble T-shirt, its unique ability to subvert and its enduring place in popular culture…

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BREASTS T-SHIRT. 1969. Pigment print on cotton/silk jersey T-shirt by Morley. Designed and screen printed by John Dove and Molly White. Original photography in collaboration with James Wedge. Model: Pat Booth. Copyright: Dove/White.

While so much fashion is the prerogative of the elite, since the 1960s T-shirts have remained the populist fashion vehicle of choice. The perfect canvas for expressing where you stand, they are the point where fashion meets activism, a safe place where you can wear your heart on your chest without crossing any major sartorial boundaries.

The Fashion Textile Museum's new exhibition T-shirt: Cult | Culture | Subversion explores the history behind what is essentially the most affordable and popular item of clothing on the planet and how it came to represent rebellion in one of its purest forms. The slogan T-shirt came into its own in the late 1960s and hasn't looked back since. The exhibition charts the intriguing history of this humble garment, from its beginnings as men’s underclothes, via rock'n'roll and activism, to its current status as a luxury fashion item and art object.

T-shirt: Cult | Culture | Subversion features a private collection of rare Vivienne Westwood T-shirts old and new from the early days of Let it Rock, Sex, and Seditionaries, through to the designer's most recent collections. You can also see Katherine Hamnett's forthright anti-nuclear T-shirts, Experimental Jetset's much ripped-off typographic Beatles' design and Jeremy Deller's Kate Moss-inspired tabloid tees. Also on display is the controversial 'Breasts' T-shirt from 1969 (seen above). The ultimate piece of uncensored feminist self-expression, or just an excuse to titillate in the name of art and fashion? You decide…

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Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greets fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, wearing a t-shirt with a nuclear missile protest message. 17th March, 1984. Press Association

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LIPS t-shirt. BOY BLACKMAIL, 1979. Photo: Derek Hutchins. Copyright: Dove/White

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John & Paul & Ringo & George (2001). T-shirt print designed by Experimental Jetset for 2K Gingham (Japan). Image by Boneshaker Photography

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Jeremy Deller, My Booze Hell, 2016, Limited Edition T-shirt. WhiteBlack. Credit Graham Pearson

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Jeremy Deller, My Drug Shame, 2016, Limited Edition T-shirt. WhiteBlack. Credit Graham Pearson

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Exploding Mickey t-shirts. BOY BLACKMAIL, 1975. Photo: Derek Hutchins. Copyright: Dove/White

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BRIXTON MARKET Wild Things, 1971. Photo: Ahmet Francis. Copyright: Dove/White

T-shirt: Cult | Culture | Subversion
9 February 2018 – 6 May 2018

Fashion and Textile Museum
83 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3XF