What’s hip in t-shirt design, you ask? T-shirt designers say nothing’s cooler than Black Icons. Yes, they mean African American Pop Icons…visionaries, entertainers, athletes, and activists. And why are t-shirts with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor, George Clinton, and Martin Luther King Junior all the rage? Because these brothers are cool….real cool. Is it the color of their skin? Is it their fame? Is it their struggle? Is it what they’ve accomplished? It’s all of that, but most of all it’s because they’re all leaders in their own right. And people, regardless of race, respect and admire people who take charge. And if you’re a brother in charge, well then more power to ya.
Some fashion critics say it’s also the Hip Hop movement that’s bringing famous brothers and sisters to the fashion forefront. Recent polls show that Hip Hop gear is the most popular attire for American kids in their early teens to mid-twenties. Thanks to Hip Hop pioneers like Russell Simmons, chairman & CEO of Rush Communications, which founded Def Jam Recordings and Phat Farm Clothing and Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, the founder of Bad Boy Entertainment and Sean John Clothing, the Hip Hop lifestyle has gone mainstream. Kids and young adults from all over the world are embracing the music, clothing, and swaggerous way of living that is Hip Hop.
So who’s wearing black icon tees? Everyone…from the girl next door to the biggest names in entertainment and sports…Rappers, Singers, Actors, Athletes, street kids, and even silver spooners are repping their favorite black icon.
P. Diddy has been sporting t-shirts embellished with images of his friend and rap prodigy the late Notorious BIG, since shortly after his death. Diddy has also been known to wear other late greats such as Marvin Gaye and Jam Master Jay. Rappers The Game and Snoop Dogg have been photographed wearing their West Coast mentor and friend Tupac Shakur. Producer, songwriter Wyclef Jean has been spotted wearing Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Junior, and Dr. Malcolm X Shabazz.
Kids all over America are wearing black icons…black inner city youth and white suburbanites alike. The fad which started in the streets probably made it to the burbs by way of television through music videos and other forms of entertainment.
In a predominantly white middle school in New Jersey one student has came up with an interesting class project for black history month. He has proposed that on the first Friday in February everyone in his history class wear a t-shirt embellished with a black icon. They will get partial credit for participating in the project, but will be graded on how well they deliver a biographical speech about the icon they are wearing.
Who’s popular? O.K., so now you’re wondering if it is cool to wear any old black icon on your chest. Well, the answer is yes, but in case you don’t want to chance it, here is a list of some of the more popular black icon tees.
Music: Bob Marley, Ray Charles, Aaliyah, Jimi Hendrix, Rick James, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Miles Davis, Tupac. Sports: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Don King, Dr. J., 1968 Olympic Protest, Jim Brown. Activists: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks. T.V. & Movie Personalities: Richard Pryor, Red Foxx as Fred Sanford, Jimmy Walker as JJ, Fred Berry as Rerun, Fat Albert.
How much do the cost and where are they sold? These shirts usually cost between $12 on the very low end to $30 on the high end. But the average price for a quality tee shirt is about 20 bucks. You’ll find these shirts just about anywhere you look. Huge department stores like Target and Wal*Mart carry them, but the cooler, more original shirts can be found in the small boutique type apparel stores in most major cities or on the Internet.