The precipitous rise of the ennui tee

If you want to understand my politics, look no further than my dirty laundry. This isn’t a metaphor; nestled somewhere between grimy socks and distressed denim you’ll find an outfit for every rally: “LOVE IS LOVE” “HILLARY 2016” “I STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD” “THERE IS NO PLANET B,” and my favorite, “WOMEN OWE YOU NOTHING.” But I can’t remember the last time I washed these shirts, let alone wore them. In the face of relentlessly bad news, I’m done wrestling with my dual convictions that everything must change and nothing will. I’ve traded in my progressive politics for a new identity: exhaustion. By the looks of recent trends in T-shirts, I’m not alone. T-shirts featuring political and self-care-minded slogans, sold everywhere from Amazon to the finest boutiques, offer consumers the opportunity to wear fatigue on their sleeves. I’ve taken to calling this trend “ennui tees.” Such tees read more like exasperated texts to a roommate than meaningful political statements. “UGH, LIFE” ($10.79, Fairy Season) “MEH” ($17.49, spreadshirt) “NOPE” ($12.99, Target) they proclaim. And yet, they are everywhere: sported by spiritless baristas, defiant teenagers, soccer moms, resistance dads, and even celebrities . “Who the hell would wear these in public?” I found myself asking whenever I saw someone wearing an ennui tee. Exasperated, I turned to my laptop for answers. But the more I plotted out the extensive family tree of T-shirts featuring disaffected one-liners, the more I understood that they betray a unique blend of lethargy and despair characteristic of an age in which we can’t afford to live in a world that is basically ending. What can ennui tees tell us about the current condition? If it is true that, as a recent exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile Museum posited, slogan tees have always signaled “who we are and who we want to be”, are we just tired people who want a fucking break? Putting words on clothing, of course, isn’t new. The slogan T-shirt has existed for at least 50 years, enduring as a medium through which to express affiliations, brand loyalties, political positions, and cultural tastes. Popular accounts trace the style’s origins to a London shop called Mr. Freedom that was popular in the 1960s for its graphic tees featuring cartoon characters, and the trend evolved to include words in subsequent decades. In the ‘70s, Vivienne Westwood boldly made the T-shirt into a medium for punk expressions by making shirts with the words like “chaos” “destroy” and “expose” on them. In 1984, when fashion designer Katherine Hamnett shook British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s hand while wearing an anti-nuclear slogan tee, political messages on clothing came into the mainstream. The humble article has remained a durable canvas for self-expression ever since, a staple of political campaigns and social movements. Given the historical function of the slogan tee to align its wearer with a cause, ennui tees break from tradition by refusing to declare allegiance to anything at all. It seems our most noble cause is […]

Secure Payments

Secure payments processed by PayPal, the most trusted online payment processing service.

Money Back Guarantee

14-Day money back guarantee. Return your purchase for a full refund of purchase price.

Fast Delivery

With fulfillment centers in Europe and America, so you don't have to wait.