The 10 Most Popular T Shirts In The 1980s

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Some of the most iconic brand logos, images of pop culture superstars and catchphrases have seen print on a T-shirt. In the ‘80s, the T-shirt has reached a massive, global popularity. So it’s not unusual to spot a Ghostbusters or a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from Manhattan to Manila and other places across the planet.

Here are ten of the most popular T-shirts to come out of the cheesy, colorful (neon, mostly!) decade of the ‘80s.

1. Frankie Says Relax

The British pop band Frankie Goes to Hollywood is basically a one-hit wonder. Well, they did come up with this T-shirt (with the words ‘FRANKIE SAYS RELAX’ on it) that set off a lasting fashion trend. Now how did that happen? And what did those words mean? In 1984, the BBC banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood from singing their hit ‘Relax’ for its explicit lyrics. The band released the T-shirt, people got curious about the BBC ban and started wearing the ‘Relax’ tee. Now, that’s what you call a good PR stunt. This T-shirt also started the trend of using block letters on T-shirt prints, leading us to…

2. Choose Life

This is a simple baggy (a typical ‘80s trend), white T-shirt with the words ‘Choose Life’ in black, block letters. Katharine Hamnett, a British designer known for her political tees and ethical business philosophy designed the T-shirt. It was popularized by the pop duo Wham! (aka George Michael’s original pop act) in their “Wake Me Up Before You Go-go” video. It’s a statement to fight drug abuse and suicide, to choose life.

3. Adidas

You know this as the basic black T-shirt with a white Adidas name and logo. Shooting out of the word Adidas are three leaves with three stripes (the original logo) diagonally crossing them. The simple, solid design is recognizable everywhere.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The sewer-dwelling, pizza-binging and skateboarding quartet of the Ninja Turtles could just be the most baffling superheroes to come out of the ‘80s. Several versions of their likeness are on T-shirts (mostly green, blue, black and gray) up to this day. 

5. Hard Rock Cafe

Travel locally or overseas and at some point, you will see someone-someone wearing a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. The rock-n-roll-themed restaurant typically sells a white or black tee (with ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ and the city location e.g. London) on it in their gift shop.

6. Bob Marley

Bob Marley had his recording prime in the ‘70s and died in 1981 but his death made him a global music and fashion icon as well as a national hero in his native Jamaica. He popularized reggae music and it’s only fitting that his unique image became immortalized in bestselling T-shirts in all continents.

7. Superman

Superman movies are phenomenal. Four Superman movies were released in the ‘80s. The blue tee with the Superman logo sparked a frenzy that just spread quickly from the U.S. to all over the world. 

8. I Want My MTV

Back in 1981, the MTV or Music Television channel was launched, revolutionizing the way music was consumed by the masses. Unlike the reality TV it is today, the channel was then all about music and its creative videos. The I Want My MTV slogan and icon was a stroke of advertising genius. It was really the coolest tee to wear in the ‘80s.

9. Ghostbusters

The original Ghostbusters was released in 1984 and its sequel in 1989. The world couldn’t get enough of it and the movie’s ‘No-Ghost’ icon (designed by Michael C. Gross) was plastered on various merchandise from bags to T-shirts. 

10. Nike – Just Do It

The classic ‘Just Do It’ tagline, says Dan Wieden (the man behind the Nike campaign) was from the final words of a convict before execution. Wieden figured that if the convict can face the firing squad, he can definitely run that marathon. Hence, ‘Just Do It’ with the Nike swish became a massively popular T-shirt. Released in various colors and patterns, the ‘Just Do It’ T-shirt has not gone away and is still highly popular.

If you want to design your own T-shirt, these are just of the classic 1980s trends that you can draw inspiration from. These T-shirt designs became super popular in their day with some lasting for decades, even up to this day. So get started on that T-shirt project, go to teetalk.ph

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