OMETIMES a T-shirt is just a T-shirt, but there are other times when that T-shirt is making a political or social statement on behalf of (and sometimes along with) its wearer. Sometimes, it’s not just fashion — it is ideology made chic.
Asian-American actress Michele Selene Ang caused a stir recently when she uploaded onto Instagram a picture of herself staring into the camera, sat on a dressing-room table, dressed in all black. What was the fuss about? The actress’s simple black T-shirt, which had these words on it in white: Scarlett & Emma & Tilda & Matt.
Those who keep up with Hollywood are familiar with the names (Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Tilda Swinton and Matt Damon). Those who keep up with sociopolitical conversations around pop culture know what those names have in common: they belong to white actors who have participated in Hollywood’s whitewashing of Asian characters and stories.
Damon saved China in the flop The Great Wall; Johansson played the widely-accepted-as-Japanese Major in another expensive flop, Ghost in the Shell; Swinton was another originally Asian character, The Ancient One, in Doctor Strange; and Stone straight up played a quarter-Chinese character, Allison Ng, in the widely panned Cameron Crowe comeback that wasn’t, Aloha.
So while Ang was wearing just a T-shirt, that T-shirt had a lot to say.
The Cape Town-based clothing label C(lit) — as in clit, the clitoris, the female organ of sexual pleasure — is also doing exactly that. Started by students Sarah Zimmermann and Ceil Reyneke, the label comprises hats and Tshirts with feminist, sex-positive slogans and messages printed on them.
C(lit), say Zimmermann and Reyneke, was “born out of a desire to create wearable social commentary, something that we found was lacking [locally]”.
“Clothing can become such a powerful tool for self-expression, and if that expression can communicate or make social statements, it transcends normal ‘dress’ and becomes a way to express identity. Fuck cat-calling. Fuck sexual suppression. Fuck misogyny.” Fuck it all indeed. “We are influenced . . . by our social environments, and our brand is manifested as a response to issues of misogyny, consent, sexual empowerment and our identities as a millennial generation . . . The texts we place