We all own a bit of clothing history

Embraced by music lovers, activists and campaigners, political parties and advertisers. A tshirt can say so much about our connection with the world and fashion, our musical and social tastes. We all own and create a little bit of its history.

The Banner of all Assertions

From an item of underwear, the tshirt has become a standard wardrobe item. Initially common among members of the military below the uniform, the tshirt burst onto the scene popularised by screen heartthrobs Marlon Brandon and James Dean.

Delving into its commercialisation since World War 2, it has been popularised on screen, by music, through politics and in advertising.

In his book “1000 tshirts that make a Statement”, Raphaelle Orsini labels the connection between music and tshirts “an eternal love story”. Musicians, bands albums and songs have all been immortalised on tshirts, from punk to metal through pop rock and hip hop. Music festivals are also a source of invention and a huge retail market.

Campaigning – tshirts for a noble cause

Politics and activism have provided a rich source of content for tshirts. Interestingly the iconic image of the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara was never copyrighted as the Communist regime believed it as a bourgeois concept.

The Obama “Hope” image (created for the 2008 campaign by Shepard Fairey) was just one of many political images to adorn a tshirt; tracing a history back to Thomas Dewey’s unsuccessful 1948 presidential campaign of 1948 against Harry Truman when it was first tried in politics.

Tees – a dream advertising tool

Advertisers were drawn to it as a cheap, easy, visible promotional tool. The tshirt is probably responsible for the death of the sandwich board!

Milton Blazer, the graphic designer, who created the “I love NY” slogan, concurs that the tshirt is a powerful, personal tool of protest. He gave the rights away for nothing for the slogan which was meant to be a short-term campaign but is now copied by cities across the globe.

The Numbers Game

On a personal level, I must mention the sports top as one of the most famous variations of the tshirt. These days football tops are worn like a second skin; a totemic, emotional object.

Even the numbers have become synonymous with legendary players: Moore 6, Best 7, Dalglish 8, Jordan 9 and the ultimate, modern numerical disrupter, Johan Cruyff who consecrated the number 14 shirt; the first ever footballer to cement any number beyond 11 in the my mind.

Like many a football-mad kid of the 70s, I got my mum to make and sew the iconic number 10 onto the back of my yellow and green tshirt to impersonate my new idol, Brazilian No10 Pele.

Then the block yellow and red kits of Pele and Moore gave way to new innovative new designs – pioneered by manufacturers like Admiral. Trims, collars, home and away strips, the influx of exotic foreign players, team sponsorship and colour TV dramatically ramped up the drama, excitement and passion of the national and now global game.

This still at a time when players still played for the jersey of their local side These were halycon days which fans of my age still romanticise today.

In the current frenzied multi-billion-dollar kitwear market (Manchester United sell more two million kits a year) there is a name for this nostaligic marketplace; “kidulthood”.

It confirms the football shirt as part of tshirt history on the same pedestal as fashion and pop culture.

The Tshirt story continues

From small scandal or major polemics, from logos to souvenirs from ironic parodies to viral memes, the tshirt is cemented as an integral part of our modern civilisation and part of the global cultural process.


1932

Jimmy Reid born in Govan
Jul

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Jimmy Reid is born on 9 July 1932 in Govan to parents Leo and Isabella Reid. Jimmy was the youngest of seven children. Three of his sisters died in infancy leading to his scathing accusation that their cause of death should be "killed by capitalism". It was a formative family heartbreak which had propelled Reid to life as a political activist i...
Jul Read more
1933

Yoko Ono born
Feb

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Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo, Japan, on 18 February 1933 to Isoko and Eisuke Ono. Her father, Eisuke – a former classical pianist – was a wealthy banker. Both parents came from wealthy Japanese families.   Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet . The full story behind John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s d...
Feb Read more

Tariq Ali born in Lahore
Oct

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  Tariq Ali was born and raised in Lahore, Punjab in British India (now part of Pakistan). He is the son of journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and activist mother Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan. Ali's mother was the daughter of Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan, who led the Unionist Muslim League and was later Prime Minister of the Punjab from 1937 to 1942. Ali's ...
Oct Read more
1940

John Lennon born in Liverpool
Oct

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  John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on the 9 October 1940. Lennon was born at Liverpool Maternity Hospital to Julia (née Stanley) (1914–1958) and Alfred Lennon (1912–1976). Alfred was a merchant seaman of Irish descent who was away at the time of his son's birth. His parents named him John Winston Lennon after his pate...
Oct Read more
1948

Reid joins Communist Party
Jan

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  Jimmy Reid joins the Communist Party aged 15. Biographers said it was the library rather than the classroom that shaped Govan-born Jimmy and his political activism. Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet . The full story behind John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s donation to Clyde shipbuilders of the UCS in 1971 a...
Jan Read more
1958

Reid moves to London as young communist leader
Jul

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  Jimmy Reid becomes National Chair of Young Communist League (YCL) and moves to London to take up the full-time party post. On the 9 August 1958 – while still living in London – Jimmy marries Joan Swankie at Old Kilpatrick Register Office selling golf clubs to pay for the bar tab…which still ran out, causing an argument between the...
Jul Read more
1963

John rattles royal conventions with jewellery joke
Nov

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  On November 4, 1963 the Beatles perform at the Royal Variety Performance in London attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Prior to ripping into a rousing rendition of their closing number, Lennon said, “For our last number I’d like to ask your help. Poking fun at the royal guests in the Prince of Wales ...
Nov Read more
1964

Jimmy Reid settles in Faifley
Jan

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  In 1964 Jimmy Reid, who had been working in London decides to move back to Scotland and, despite being born and hailing from Govan, settles in the Faifley district of Clydebank with his wife Joan and young family. His father Leo had died in 1962. By 1965, following his return to Clydebank, Jimmy is elected to the full time post of Scott...
Jan Read more

Beatles reject racial segregation
Sep

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  The Beatles were booked to play at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. But when they found out the crowd would be racially segregated the band threatened to cancel the gig. The promoters backed down. The policy was in defiance of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson t...
Sep Read more
1965

Tariq Ali elected President of the Oxford Union
Jan

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  Tariq Ali is elected President of the Oxford Union in 1965. Ali's tenure at the Union included a meeting with Malcolm X in December 1964 during which Malcolm X expressed deep consternation about his own risk of assassination. In 1967 Ali was one of 64 prominent figures, including the Beatles, who signed a petition calling for the legali...
Jan Read more

Establishment recognition with MBE
Oct

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  Due to their phenomenal international success in June 1965 it is announced that the Beatles would be each be made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). In a break from tradition, it was the first time that such an award was bestowed upon mere "pop stars" and working class ones at that.  Previously the only ...
Oct Read more

Vietnam Solidarity Campaign established
Dec

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  The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell was an early campaigner on Vietnam, tearing up his Labour Party membership card in disgust at the failure of Labour to take an independent stand on Vietnam. Russell, a prominent aristocrat and polymath, had spent time in jail during the First World War for his pacifism. An anti-imperialist and n...
Dec Read more
1966

John’s ‘Jesus’ grenade explodes
Mar

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  A casual comment in a newspaper interview was to cause a huge controversy for John and his bandmates, when he claimed the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. It was so typical of Lennon to be analysing the status of the band in philosophical terms of wider culture. But his remark in an interview with journalist Maureen Cleave for the London...
Mar Read more

Lennon first ponders life beyond the Beatles
Sep

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  John admits he first contemplated life beyond The Beatles while on set without his bandmates in 1966 on film location. "Of course, I was a Beatle, but things had begun to change. In 1966, just before we met, I went to Almeria, Spain, to make the movie 'How I Won the War.' "It did me a lot of good to get away. I was there six weeks. I w...
Sep Read more

John meets Yoko
Nov

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  John Lennon meets Yoko Ono at an exhibition in London. Unfinished Paintings and Objects was hosted by the Indica gallery and bookshop in Mayfair in November 1966. The Japanese avant-garde artist was a seminal influence on John and fired his interest and adoption of radical politics. As the romance grew, the couple became inseparable. h...
Nov Read more
1967

Lennon calling Planet Earth live! Are you receiving?
Jun

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  Planet Earth, this is John Lennon, can you hear me? This is the next Beatles single and my first international anthem. "I'm a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change." John Lennon June 1967 For the first time in human history people all over the planet Earth are watching the same television programme; aptly entertained wi...
Jun Read more

Black Dwarf first published
Aug

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  Black Drawf established and edited by Tariq Ali.  Black Dwarf took its name from the 19th-century radical paper of that name which was first published in 1817.  John Hoyland and the musician John Lennon had an exchange of letters in the newspaper regarding Lennon's supposed bourgeois values. Hoyland in "An Open Letter to John Lennon...
Aug Read more

Queen visits Clydebank for ship launch
Sep

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The Queen visited Clydebank to launch the latest new ship at John Brown’s Yard. It was a huge event for the town. As a kid we had watched this monster of a vessel grow and dominate the skyline. I recall watching it from the rooftop of a the high flats in Radnor Park where I lived. [caption id="attachment_4025" align="aligncenter" width="1...
Sep Read more

Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies
Oct

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  Epstein’s sudden death from a drug overdose aged just 32 was one of the major events leading to the breakup of the band without his guiding influence. Though they were to continue to make ground-breaking music and increase their influence, left to their own personal devices, the band drifted apart. In parallel with Yoko’s growing rad...
Oct Read more
1968

1968 sees mass movements and protests
Jan

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  As the decade comes to a close, the peace and love of the Swinging Sixties gives way to a year of violent and bloody protest across the globe. Mass protest, civil disobedience raged throughout 1968 as a year of huge social unrest. A huge backlash against state repression began with the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. The US suffered ...
Jan Read more

Tet offensive turns public opinion
Jan

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  At 3:00 a.m., January 31, 1968, 70,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas launched surprise attacks throughout Vietnam. On this holiday morning known as Tet, more than 100 cities and outposts were attacked. In Saigon, a suicide squad penetrated and briefly held U.S. embassy grounds. Fighting was fierce. Throughout Vietnam, se...
Jan Read more

UCS established in shipbuilding shake up
Feb

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  With many shipyards on the Clyde going to the wall, nearly 30 in 1950 to under 10 in 1968 and a huge loss in market share from intense international competition, Minister of Technology, Tony Benn, implements a proposal to reorganise yards. The amalgamation of five shipyards leads to the formation of a new company – Upper Clyde Shipbuil...
Feb Read more

Tariq Ali leads Vietnam War protests
Mar

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  Mounted police clash with anti-Vietnam war demonstrators outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London on 17 March 1968.  The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) organised a major demonstration in London which drew more than 100,000 ant-war participants.  Serious police violence was captured by press and television cameras d...
Mar Read more

Beatles record Revolution
Aug

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  Beatles record John Lennon composition, Revolution. Recorded between 9–13 July 1968 and released 26 August 1968. The song, its lyrics and political message was to become the focus of the left's conversation with John's credibility and direction as he shed his teeny-bop image.   Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie...
Aug Read more

John's costly drug bust
Sep

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  John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave Marylebone Magistrates’ Court after their hearing on drug possession charges, 19 October 1968. The case was to dog Lennon for a number of years, preventing him from gaining residency in the USA and partly ending his political activism. Senior police involved in the costly drugs were later jailed f...
Sep Read more
1969

John and Yoko tie the knot
Mar

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John and Yoko are married at the registry office in Gibraltar and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam, campaigning with a week-long Bed-In for Peace.
Mar Read more

John buys Georgian mansion at Tittenhurst
May

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John and Yoko buy the Tittenhurst estate in Berkshire. The couple paid £145,000 for the Georgian mansion and 72-acre grounds which had belonged to test pilot and business tycoon Peter Cadbury. Though the couple only stay there for two years, much of our story takes place at Tittenhurst and it features large in Beatles folklore.  [capti...
May Read more

Anti-War Movement adopts Lennon hit
Jul

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  Give Peace a Chance was released and became an anthem of the anti-war movement reaching the top 14 in US and 2 in UK. The Master (Take 4) of Give Peace A Chance was recorded in Room 1742, The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, in the very early hours of 1 June 1969. Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouqu...
Jul Read more

Tittenhurst hosts last Beatles photoshoot
Aug

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  John's recent new home at Tittenhurst is the setting to host the last images of the Beatles together as a band. Any pictures of the band after this were strictly business related and didn't feature all four members. The photoshoot was held on 22 August 1969 – two days after their recording session together for the Hey Jude album. The...
Aug Read more

Lennon returns his MBE
Nov

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John makes the anti-establishment war formal by returning his MBE. He returns to his Aunt Mimi's house in Bournemouth  to collect the 1965 award. In typical Lennon-infused grandstanding he combines the political with the humorous. His main aim is to undermine the combined political and royal establishment by opposing British actions in the Nig...
Nov Read more
1970

Red Mole publication established
Mar

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  In March 1970, The Black Dwarf's editorial board split over differences of Leninism. A second newspaper was established, Red Mole, which Tariq Ali edited alongside an editorial board with an IMG (International Marxist Group) majority. Red Mole was a "revolutionary internationalist" paper that carried a broad range of left-wing opinion. J...
Mar Read more

McCartney publicly breaks up the Beatles
Apr

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Ahead of his debut solo album McCartney, Paul decided not to promote the album with media interviews as was the norm. Instead, he asked Apple’s Peter Brown to compile questions which he supplied the answers. They included his relationship with John, who had privately left the band in September 1969. (Lennon requested a "divorce" from the Be...
Apr Read more

Beatles' final album, Let it be, released
May

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  Let It Be released, The Beatles' final album, is released on 8 May 1970 The Beatles’ last album to be released, Let It Be was mostly recorded in early 1969, prior to Abbey Road. The music was produced by George Martin, and was then prepared for release in 1970 by Phil Spector. Following the often fractious sessions for the White Albu...
May Read more

Reid stands in election as Tories return to power
Jun

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  Already a Clydebank local councillor covering Faifley, Jimmy Reid stands as a Communist candidate for East Dunbartonshire constituency in the General Election held on 18 June 1970. The election was won by the Conservatives and Edward Heath became Prime Minister. The Conservative election victory was to mean major changes in industrial p...
Jun Read more

Lennon's first solo album starkly personal and political
Sep

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  Such was the reputation, appeal and longevity of The Beatles; it took a long time for people to appreciate that the band had actually split up. That intensified the focus on John’s debut solo album, entitled John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Recording began on 29 September 1970 at Abbey Road studios. [caption id="attachment_4252" ali...
Sep Read more

John reveals new solo direction in Rolling Stone interview
Dec

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  Following the release of Plastic Ono Band, John and Yoko conducted a mega interview which was featured in Rolling Stone magazine on 8 December 1970. This is the famous interview in which Lennon utters the famous words "I can make a guitar speak," makes fun of Mick Jagger for "wiggling his ass," calls Paul's music "rubbish," and declares...
Dec Read more
1971

Lennon interviewed by Red Mole
Jan

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On 21 January 1971, John invites Red Mole editors, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, for a lengthy interview at Tittenhurst Park. It was through Red Mole that Lennon was to become acquainted with the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. The newspaper had regular coverage and analysis on the work-in. In his day-long interview for the newspaper John e...
Jan Read more

John pens a 'marching song for the movement'
Jan

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Exhilarated and inspired by the nature of the discussion and interview the previous day with Red Mole, John goes into his studio at home in Ascot and writes his latest political hit, Power to the People on Friday 22 January. According to John, “I wrote ‘Power to the People' the same way I wrote ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ as something for th...
Jan Read more

UCS is forced to enter liquidation
Jun

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  On the evening of Friday June 11 the axe falls on Clydeside. The board of UCS told the government that the firm was technically insolvent. Without an extra £6m the company will fold. Heath’s government and the Industry Department was unresponsive causing a crisis among an estimated 2000 creditors. UCS is forced to enter liquidation ...
Jun Read more

200 shop steward agree to propose work-in
Jun

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The day after the devastating news that liquidation was the only option for UCS, on Saturday 12 June 1971, senior shop stewards met to discuss the workers' response. 200 senior shop stewards, including Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie (pictured, left to right at front), endorsed the proposal of a work-in, taking control and continuing production wit...
Jun Read more

Hundreds lobby for the 'right to work'
Jun

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On Monday 14 June a mass meeting of all workers takes place in Clydebank Town Hall while leading stewards fly to London to attend a Commons debate on the crisis. Meanwhile in London, Industry Secretary, John Davies appoints a provisional liquidator and sets up an expert committee with a remit to report by the end of July. The following day, Tu...
Jun Read more

John begins recording Imagine
Jun

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On Wednesday 23 June John begins recording tracks for his new album Imagine. On the first morning he plays his new song to the other musicians which will turn out to be the title track of the album. Then, using an eight-track machine which the Lennon's affectionately call ASS (Ascot Sound Studios), the recording sessions produce the following s...
Jun Read more

Red Mole cover catches John's attention as he completes Imagine
Jul

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  On the first of the month, the July edition of Red Mole is published with a cover dedicated to the developing Upper Clyde Shipbuilders dispute which had become a national news headlines in the UK. It was this edition which was to capture the attention of John Lennon. Writing in his memoirs Tariq Ali – at this point regularly speaking...
Jul Read more

Lennon donation fuels international support
Aug

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John and Yoko's donation to the UCS fighting fund on 9 August 1971 helps propel the Clydeside struggle to a sympathetic international audience. Money and solidarity pours in to the UCS to sustain the occupation and pay wages to the courageous workforce. (Top image of Dedication Card: ©Glasgow Caledonian University Archives: Papers of Jimmy Clo...
Aug Read more

Prime Minister Heath in choppy waters
Aug

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Far away from the still, murky waters of the Clyde, Prime Minister, Ted Heath, is in choppy waters of a different kind leading Britain’s Admiral Cup team to victory aboard his 42-foot yacht, Morning Cloud. Heath is at the helm in the punishing 600-mile, five-day race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland returni...
Aug Read more

UCS captivates Lennon despite hectic schedule
Aug

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  Despite chaotic professional and family life, the UCS occupation mesmerises Lennon. While working intently to complete Imagine, four transatlantic trips in a month, the torturous and never-ending search for Yoko’s missing daughter, the fall out with Paul, the Beatles business dealings, promotion of the new album, filming for the Imagi...
Aug Read more

Two-yard proposal and Occupation at stalemate as Davies steps in
Aug

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  UCS stewards outflank government by sidelining the Govan proposal at meeting organised by Sir John Eden. This and huge public support undermines the government position. By the end of the August, Industry Secretary, John Davies, takes personal control of negotiations. It was Davies most associated with the ‘lame ducks” phrase having...
Aug Read more

Morale dips but Reid's rhetoric holds nerve
Sep

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On 17 September a bonus for the workers when Ken Douglas, Managing Director of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, reveals record productivity and improved industrial relations in a widely reported newspaper interview. The Government, meanwhile, appoints a management board to two-yard proposal to isolate Clydebank and divide the workers unity. The ...
Sep Read more

Lennon settles in New York and composes new peace anthem
Oct

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  Having flown to New York at the end of August 1971, lawyers representing Yoko suggest to her that to secure her custody rights for her daughter, Kyoko, she and John must take up permanent residence in the States. Although he didn’t know it at the time, John would never again return to his native country. John explains: “Yoko and I w...
Oct Read more

John advertises Peace as a Product
Dec

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  Happy Xmas/War is Over released on 1 December 1971 and the advertising campaign starts two weeks later in the run up to Christmas. John’s anti-war, anti-violence and peace campaigning has been a regular strand of his political activism since the bed-in on honeymoon in Amsterdam and the release of Give Peace a Chance, both back in 1969...
Dec Read more
1972

Beatles duo outraged by Bloody Sunday
Jan

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The cold-blooded killing of 13 Catholics after a civil rights march in Derry in Northern Ireland by British paratroopers causes outrage. Both John Lennon and even the less politically inclined Paul McCartney compose songs about the murders in February 1972. John had been a sustained critic of British involvement in Ireland. Indeed, both he and ...
Jan Read more

BBC bans McCartney’s Bloody Sunday single
Feb

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'I wasn't really into protest songs – John had done that – but this time I felt that I had to write something, to use my art to protest.' Paul McCartney says the British army killings are so shocking, he had to react with a song about Bloody Sunday in February 1972. Being a lifelong Beatles’ fan, I can’t resist the opportunity to bring ...
Feb Read more

Nixon urged to deport Lennon
Feb

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  A secret memo addressed to the US Attorney General, John Mitchell, from Senator Strom Thurmond, suggests that John Lennon should be deported from the United States as an undesirable alien, due to Lennon's political views and activism. The document sent on 4 February 1972 claims Lennon's influence on young people could affect Nixon's cha...
Feb Read more

Breakthrough as government caves in with £35 million extra funding offer
Feb

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  The government, stung by the level of support for the UCS workers and with a wider eye on their getting their Industrial Relations Bill through parliament, had long realised the need to end the dispute having failed to split the workers with their two-yard solution. They had already privately acknowledged the need to end the fight regard...
Feb Read more

Old drug bust starts deportation as Lennon plans radical US tour
Feb

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  On Tuesday February 29 1972 John and Yoko’s original US visa expires. They are immediately granted a 15-day extension. But this sees the beginning of a three-and-a-half-year struggle by John to reside in America. The government’s opposition to his request is apparently based on his 1968 UK drug conviction by Sgt Pilcher. By the end o...
Feb Read more

Reid’s rousing Rat Race speech as new Rector of Glasgow University
Apr

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  With the earlier stalemate between the Clydeside yard workers and government, Reid uses time and his new-found public profile to stand for election as Rector of Glasgow University. His popular campaign means he becomes the youngest Rector to hold the office since its establishment in 1648. It allows the newly elected the opportunity...
Apr Read more

UCS work-in ends in victory
Aug

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  Having reached agreement with US oil rig company Marathon two days earlier, on 9 August 1972, the unions agree to the terms of the Govan proposal and the occupation ends in success. One week later, Govan Shipbuilders became a reality. Sixteen months after the "work-in" campaign started, on the 9th October 1972, the terms of the sett...
Aug Read more

Ringo buys Tittenhurst
Sep

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  As the work-in came to a successful conclusion, things were changing fundamentally on John’s journey too. Deciding to stay permanently in the USA and fight for residency and a coveted green card, John and Yoko put the once, forever home up for sale instructing estate agents to put it back on the market. In a twist on Tuesday 18 Septem...
Sep Read more

Bent cop chief Pilcher is jailed for corruption
Oct

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  As Lennon battles deportation, the main who arrested him for drug possession was himself in the dock. Sgt. Pilcher – in charge of the drug squad at Scotland Yard in London – is jailed for six years on corruption charges. John has long claimed that Pilcher was responsible for planting the illegal substances in his flat when he was bus...
Oct Read more
1976

Reid resigns from the Communist Party
Feb

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On 9 Feb 1976 Jimmy Reid leaves the Communist Party. After "sleepness nights" he shocks party leaders who had once nurtured him as a future leader and sends a resignation letter. Having joined aged 16, Jimmy has been a member for 25 years of his life and met his wife Joan through the party. Return to The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet bl...
Feb Read more

Lennon finally gets his green card
Jul

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And in a triple triumph as Lennon celebrates his 35th birthday and the arrival of his new son, Sean, he finally receives his green card.   Return to The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet blog. This blog is strictly non-commercial. All material is the property of the photographer/artist/copyright holder concerned. Any copyright owner...
Jul Read more
1977

Jimmy joins Labour Party
Oct

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  In October 1977 Jimmy joins the Labour Party. It is a huge political move in which he is vilified as a traitor on both sides. From the Communist Party whom he abandoned his lifelong membership following his UCS fame and from the Labour Party which he had excoriated following election defeat in the 1974 elections. Members of both parties ...
Oct Read more
1980

Lennon murdered in New York
Dec

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  This remains one of the saddest moments in modern history. John Lennon is fatally gunned down outside his New York home. Having brought up his son Sean at home, while Yoko went to work, John had recently returned to the studio with material for a new album. It was the first time in six years that the ex-Beatle had written worked on an ...
Dec Read more
1997

Death of UCS leader Jimmy Airlie
Mar

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In March 1997, Reid’s long-time comrade in the Communist Party, in the trade union movement and, most importantly, as his double act in the UCS occupation, Jimmy Airlie dies following a six-month battle with cancer, aged 60. Airlie’s unfortunate passing did not make for any happy ending. The pair were rumoured to have fallen after Reid’s ...
Mar Read more
2010

Death of Jimmy Reid aged 78
Aug

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  On August 2010 Jimmy Reid is taken to hospital from his home on the Isle of Bute. Across the very river, the River Clyde, on which he made a living, and led a nation and the working class to an momentous victory. In Greenock, aged 78, Jimmy dies from a brain haemorrhage. Despite leaving the Communist Party for the Labour Party and t...
Aug Read more
2021

Tariq Ali
Jul

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July 2021 Tariq Ali is 77 years old and lives in London with his wife. The activist, historian, filmmaker and novelist has written numerous books subsequent to the his memoirs Street Fighting Years. He is a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review and, as an intellectual commentator contributes article to newsapers and magazines. ...
Jul Read more
2021

Tshirts: A timeline

AD 500
The T-shaped garment is one of the earliest and most universal fashioned items of clothing and examples of decorated T-shaped tunics exist from as early as the fifth century AD.

960-1297
In its first recognisable form, screen printing has been documented as far back as the Song Dynasty of China.

1907
Englishmen Samuel Simon patents the screen-printing technique paving the way for modern tshirt design.

1910
Photoactive chemicals to create screens for printing are developed.

1913
The US Navy uniform regulation kit includes a ‘lightweight short sleeve white cotton undervest’. Although in England amateur boxers and rowers had worn a knitted undershirt known as the Zephyr in the 1880s.

1920
In order to prevent theft, the University of South California introduces athletic uniform t-shirts in bold flocked print, proclaiming ‘Property of USC’ making them all the more desirable as personal (and subversive) garments.

1935
US underwear manufacturer Hanes starts producing tshirts but they are a commercial failure.

1938
American retailer Sears markets the tshirt with the slogan ‘You don’t need to be a soldier to have your own personal tshirt’.

1939
Although none seem to have survived, it is believed that the first-ever promotional tshirt was created for the Wizard of Oz, initiating the use of the tshirt as an advertising tool. The film also features citizens of the Emerald City wearing printed tshirts that say ‘Oz’.

1942
The US Navy issues the regulation T-type undershirt, which is featured on the cover of Life magazine.

1948
The first use of the tshirt as a political campaign tool during New York Governor Thomas E Dewey’s presidential campaign. Although he went on to lose the election, the ‘Dew-it with DEWEY” slogan and the tshirt set the precedent for the future of electioneering.

1951
Marlon Brando brings the classic white tshirt into the sexual imagination in the film Streetcar Named Desire.

1955
Disneyland opens, a place of magic wonder and souvenir tshirts, which were widely produced and sold due to the first licensing agreement between Disney and Tropix Togs.

1956
James Dean is catapulted to stardom and becomes a fully-fledged teen heart-throb as the rebellious Jim Stark in the film Rebel Without a Cause while wearing the classic white tshirt.

1959
A leap forward in technology sees the invention of an ink called ‘plastisol’: stretchy and durable, it is perfect for printed tshirts.

1960
The invention of the multicolour rotary screen-printing machine makes printing designs on tshirts much faster and less costly.

1963
The plastisol transfer is developed allowing tshirt designs to be made on demand and in a dazzling array of sparkling and photographic images.

1968
UK athletes in the Olympic Games are issued with an official tshirt as part of their kit.

1969
The first UK government anti-smoking campaign to be produced by an advertising agency sees hip youngsters wearing ‘We Don’t Smoke’ tshirts.

1970
Designers John and Molly Dove develop inks that can print on black fabric five years before they become widely commercially available.

1971
The OZ obscenity trial sees tshirts used as a means to raise awareness and funds in support of freedom of speech in the UK.

1971
Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren set up their shop, Let it Rock, at 430 Kings Road and soon begin designing and selling retro rock memorabilia and slogan tshirts.

1974
In London, the Hard Rock Café launches its tshirts. Designed originally as a symbol of sponsorship of a local football team, the tshirts were a hit with customers and have evolved from a local to global souvenir.

1977
Milton Glaser designs the ‘I Love NY’ tshirt (in a taxi) as part of a government-sponsored marketing campaign for New York State. Inspired by pop art, it goes on to be one the most successful and recognisable designs of the 20th century.

1982
Although there is a ban on the production of royal wedding souvenirs that bear the image or insignia of the royal family, bootleg vendors produce and sell tshirts that reverently or ironically celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

1984
Katherine Hamnett greets the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a London Fashion Week even wearing her ‘58% don’t want Pershing’ tshirt referring to public opposition to the relocation of the US missiles.

1994
Anti-fur PETA launches and anti-fur tshirt featuring models, Emma Sjoberg, Tatjana Patitz, Heather Stewart-Whyte, Fabienne Terwinghe and Naomi Campbell posing naked for the cause.

2000
By the early 2000s the rise of fast fashion sees more than two billion tshirts sold each year.

2010
Textile technology allows for innovations that bring the tshirt back to utilitarian concerns, such as the world’s first bullet-proof tshirt and one that can block up to 99% of UV rays.



Editors Note: The term “T-shirt” is taken from its shape obviously. I’ve taken a decision on this site not to hyphen the word. It’s a practical decision, lower case and no hyphen means less time typing. As an editor, I feel empowered to do this. In Victorian times the word to-day was hyphenated; more recently e-mail. Common usage dictates convention. Speech influences grammar, so tshirt it is for me.

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