Then the slogans moved on. They took over t-shirts and scarves, shoes and shoestrings, bangles and backpockets of jeans. The t-shirt, which was considered underwear until liberated by James Dean and Marlon Brando, finally had something to say. Since those days of simple coolness, the t-shirt has had a bit of a downfall, having become a target for advertisements and logos. People have been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt, then kept on wearing the t-shirt for the whole world to know of their Las Palmas experience of 1994.
But now t-shirts are making a comeback. In the last year, the amount of t-shirts with slogans in Icelandic have doubled, if not tripled. There is a huge selection for anyone willing to take their pick and say what they want without actually having to utter a word – simply by displaying their opinions on their chests, printed on their t-shirts. The messages range from downright political opinions to simple but accurate and matter-of-factly (or in some cases deceiving) statements such as “ég er fullur” – I am drunk.
Icelanders have always had pride in their language, guarded it and looked after it by trying to avoid foreign influences and come up with their own words instead of simply borrowing others’. The power is in the words, in the language, as it is inheritance from the past generations, the forefathers who first inhabited the country. Words contain history, and now they are making their appearance in t-shirts, ties and tops across the country. The major players of this new wave of slogan-embellished clothing are Jón Sæmundsson with his label Dead (available at Nonnabúð) and the Laugavegur-based shop Ósóma, both proudly displaying their philosophical and more down-to-earth wordplay for the whole world to see.
The trick of these clothes is that they work in many different levels, thus making them wearable for a wide range of people. Rock stars as well as teenagers wear them, and the tourists buy them for the hipness of sporting a secret slogan that nobody back home can understand. This, of course, makes it easier to wear indecent or shocking words on your chest without anybody actually knowing about it or being offended by it. For all those who get their kicks out of being bad without getting caught.