Monday, 20 January 2014

Fashion Crimes - Banned T-shirts

There is no accounting for taste in a diverse society and many items of clothing can cause offence. Whether it be see through leggings or a bold and brash political slogan on your chest, people enjoy being offended, but should it be a criminal offence. There have been some amazingly stupid cases of arrests over t-shirt slogans throughout history and across the world, from the anti apartheid t-shirts of the 70's banned in South Africa to the pro NRA school expulsion in the states.

T-Shirts became popular as an outer wear garment around 1920, having previously been used solely as an undergarment or vest. From the origins of work wear they have morphed into a multi purpose fashion item that is found in everybodies wardrobe. From V-neck to crop tops the list of adaptations are endless and their brush with the law is as old as their invention.

Wet T-shirt contests where invented in Spain, as part of the festivities this past time was perhaps chauvanistic in it's message. The list of controversial brushes with the law is long, public decency laws make this type of game the preserve of student nightclubs and kinky festivals, synonymous with spring break there has been a number of cases of underage displays which got the organisers into a lot of hot water. One of the funniest examples was an Ohio newsreader (Catherine Bosley) who was caught on camera stripping off and getting a shower of water revealing her ample assets, hardly the past time suitable for someone in the public eye. Having resigned her news anchor position she went on to successfully sue Hustler magazine which took it upon themselves to publish the pictures (previously bought and copyrighted by Bosley - clever lady) no doubt the out of court settlement was perhaps enough to endure the loss of her news career.

Another example of the troubled history of the t-shirt is the case of an NRA supporting 14 year old who was arrested after refusing to remove the offending item of clothing at his school. With the US history of gun crime in high school you can understand the teasing and outcry from fellow students but in my school you got detention not a criminal record. On appeal the court ruled in the boys favour and he was allowed to return to school with the offending t-shirts, a victory for freedom of speech or perhaps a case of wasted tax payers money.

Being arrested for causing offence is perhaps a grey area, the result is only likely to happen if people complain, because otherwise nobody has been caused any offence. A mother in Orlando recently fell foul of this when in a newly opened water park with her children got soaked making her top half visible to other park goers. Now having been to florida I know how hot it can get and often people would go on water rides to cool down, I'm not sure I ever considered the fact t-shirts would go transparent, you ain't likely to put a coat on afterwards unless you were partial to a bit of sun stroke. So this mother is suing the police for the utter nonsense of someone being offended by a pair of slightly visible boobs. Society has a strange relationship with the naked form, campaigners want to promote breastfeeding in public but at all other times its criminal to go topless? 

Political messages are easily conveyed on a t-shirts, saves on your arms getting tired holding up a board. Of course depending on the political message and where you may be going it's worth thinking is it going to get you into trouble. A country fair might not be the most political of places but one smart business person decided B*llocks to Blair was a great slogan given Tony Blair's utter contempt for many of the rural livelihoods, this resulted in an arrest of one person, strangely they were not the only one wearing the t-shirt. She did eventually get released on the condition she put on a jacket, without explanation as to whether it was the word they were censoring or perhaps the political message, perhaps Blair's a Baddie would have been better.