Top 5 Most Iconic Screen Printed Tees

Top 5 Most Iconic Screen Printed Tees

From the ’70s and ’90s to today, screen printed tees have become a fashion staple in most social circles. While the types of graphic screen printed tees differ, the materials, in and of itself, are essentially the same. A t-shirt, some ink, and an idea.  However, there are some designs that have withstood the test of time and are so recognizable that they are outright iconic in pop culture. So, we are going to look at the most memorable screen-printed tees.


Number 5: Keep Calm and Carry On

During the early stages of WWII in 1939, Britain had to prepare for a German invasion.  It meant a strain on resources, manpower, and outright nervous energy throughout the country. As a way to inspire the citizens of London, the British government would create and distribute propaganda posters with the message of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. An appeal to British endurance through a stiff upper lip.

After the war, the poster design was lost and forgotten through history. In the year 2000, it went through rediscovery in an antique bookshop in Alnwick, England.  The design was so popular among private business owners, a few of them bought the design rights. Then, it went through commercial redistribution.

Now, you would most likely see the screen printed tee design, and its derivatives, in large populations with English speaking populations.

© The Mountain

Number 4: Three Wolves Howling at the Moon

Sometimes, all it takes is a well-placed meme. Before it reached its iconic status among meme lords, the screen printed tee in question was just a regular design from The Mountain Corporation. They were attempting to sell it on the commercially successful online merchant,

Then, in 2008,  a wild sarcastic reviewer appeared!

He gave it a five-star rating along with a claim that the shirt made him appear manly, and irresistible to women at a local Wal-Mart.

Ever since this screen printed tee boosted in popularity, and most people who wear it are part of the inside joke.

©Roach Shirts

Number 3: I’m With Stupid

Have you ever felt annoyed by having to deal with certain people? Or, maybe you want to tease a few friends you are planning to hang out with. Those occasions are great for you to break out the traditional “I’m With Stupid” printed tee.

The original design came from the “King of Iron On Shirt” Roach Studios, back in the 1970s.  The printed tees designs were part of the California counterculture that was prominent in the ’60s and ’70s at the time. They started out their company making graphics for the California car scene. Eventually, for income, they started airbrushing and silk screening t-shirts. Eventually, their business grew based on commissions for their original designs.

This shirt design took off in popularity along with a few other shirt designs thanks to the fact that the design was made before licensing shirt designs were a thing in the 1980s. As a result, there are numerous iterations of designs floating around from shop to shop.


Number 2: Mickey Mouse Shirt

Of course, no one can talk about iconic screen printed tees without talking about the first character shirt that made it to the marketplace.  Mickey Mouse has become a household name in the United States, ever since the premiere of “Steam Boat Willie”.

Screen Printed Tees were starting to make a splash in the fashion scene in the ’50s. Everyone noticed. Even the head of the Disney Company.  Walt Disney planned on not letting a marketing opportunity go to waste. With a theme park opening soon, he realized the value of branding before it had a name.

He allowed a company in Florida to begin the production of screen-printed tees. Tropix Togs grabbed the exclusive rights from The Walt Disney Company to print Mickey Mouse and his pals on t-shirts and saw massive success.

Vintage shirts from that company still make a pretty penny on eBay, too.

The policy would change over time for worldwide distribution, but that has not decreased the popularity of the Mouse anytime soon.

© Grand Slam New York

Number 1: I ♥ NY

However, Mickey Mouse does not make it to the top of the list. Not even close. There is one more screen printed graphic tee that is more iconic than the rest. It has more airtime in film, television, photography and all forms of media.  I ♥ NY makes it to the top of the list, because of this.

I ♥ NY was initially a logo design commissioned by New York State. In 1977, Wells Rich Greene decided to take the job as logo designer and hired on Milton Glaser, who initially thought that the campaign wouldn’t be lucrative.  In fact, he initially designed the logo for free.

However, the design was a major success. It was so successful, it became associated with New York City.  Glaser’s original concept sketch and presentation boards were donated by Doyle to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

It is, undisputedly,  the most iconic screen printed tee.

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