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Shirt – Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren – 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Even fashion has absorbed and re-edited subversive or propagandist slogans, linguistic expressions based on instinct and angry protest.

In the early 1970s lead singer Richard Hell, during a performance of his band the New York Dolls, wears a white T-shirt with the words “Please kill me”written on it with a black marker and a nervous, almost childish handwriting. His manager Malcom McLaren, like many other young people in the years after the protests of 1968, can’t stand the ideological militancy. However he believes in the slogan, screamed out, without barriers of any kind, even performed by means of powerful images. In 1976 Malcom and his partner Vivienne Westwood take some basic garments, deconstruct them and put them together again in a revolutionary way: unfinished hems, worn or torn fabric, visible internal seams. But above all, they make use of iconoclastic collages. On an irregular grey striped background pattern – a terrible reminder about the ghosts of World War II – they put writings such as “Only anarchists are pretty!”, “Chaos”, “Try subversion” overlapping a portrait of Karl Marx made in China and a Third Reich Eagle. On another T-shirt the word DESTROY is printed above three symbols: a reverse crucifix, a swastika and a Queen Elizabeth II one penny stamp. Here words and symbols take on a different meaning. (source)