A Quick Look At 5 Of The Most Controversial T-shirts Ever Made
It's one of the easiest ways to piss someone off even though it ain't got nuttin' to do with them. That is, simply wear a t-shirt with some vulgar stuff on it and wait. Ever since customization of tees became a thing in the ‘50s, people have used the medium to say all kinds of things be it support for saving the whales or letting it be known you think Jesus is kind of a cunt. It’s one of the greatest accessories to identity that has long pushed the limits of social comfort. Maybe sometimes a bit too far.
1. The Offspring, Bad Habit
In the last half of the 20th century, each decade was often defined by the popular music created within it: hippy stuff in the1960s, disco in the ‘70s and so on. The same held true for the 1990s, which was a decade shoved full of rock outfits testing the limits on what was and what wasn’t decent entertainment. And after The Offspring released its track “Bad Habit” in 1994, the act decided to see if its famed phrase would look good on a t-shirt, too.
Looks great, honestly, but parents and school districts just didn’t agree that “Stupid Dumbshit Goddam Motherfucker” was fashion. It was one of those tees you’d pick up at Sam Goody after saving up some allowance but then it would just sit in the closet until going off to college.
2. Co-Ed Naked Anything
After purchasing the CoedNaked trademark in 1991, three business partners sought to capitalize on the growing demand for sexually charged shirts. Big Johnson already had its foot in the door with its line of graphically dubious gear, so it’s not like there wasn’t a market for it. Far from it. Slogans like “CoEd Naked Law Enforcement: Against The Wall And Spread ‘Em” were crazy popular at the time and brought in big bucks for the entrepreneurs.
“People got pretty nervous when they saw the word naked on a T-shirt at that time,” owner Scott MacHardy told Slate. “You wouldn’t even blink now. But back then, the double entendres we used as catchphrases would make people blush, which was also the magic of the product.”
Fast-forward less than 10 years later and the product was unsellable. Though it has it’s brief time in popular culture then, good luck stepping out of the house in 2022.
3. FUCT (Friends U Can’t Trust)
Everyone loves a good redemption story. In 1990, clothing designer Erik Brunetti founded a streetwear company and called it Fuct — which sounds like you know what but is spelled completely different. Because of that, it was denied a trademark by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. It cited some vague rule against “immoral” or “scandalous” words and symbols.
Even without it, Fuct became one of the most recognizable and collectible names in the skateboarding and streetwear genre. It was a staple of ‘90s counterculture and continued to thrive without the help of mainstream efforts.
Yet in 2011, Brunetti found that there were just too many knock-offs in the market and applied once again for trademark protections. It wouldn’t be until 2019 that he’d win his case, having to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Fuct yeah.
4. George Bush, International Terrorist
The early 2000s were a weird time. Not so different than today, actually. But after the attack on the World Trade Towers in 2001, the public’s shift toward distrust in the government was at an all time high. Not since the punks of the ‘80s had America seen this much animosity to those who were supposed to have been trusted the most.
One such rebel was a Philadelphia high school kid who in 2003 wore a t-shirt with then President George Bush’s face on it with the words “International Terrorist” scrawled across the top. A security guard at school didn’t like it. He was told to take it off. He refused. He sued.
Several years after the incident, the little bastard won his case, even he “knew right off the bat they had no legal footing to stand on.” Damn.
5. Cradle of Filth, Jesus is a Cunt
Perhaps one of the craziest and most controversial t-shirts ever made came, unsurprisingly, from a heavy metal band’s merch booth. It’s aptly titled the “Jesus is a Cunt” tee and was printed in 1993 before one of many tours the successful English metal band would go on through the years.
As Rolling Stone reports, the act simply needed another design before hitting the road. The masturbating nun imagery was already made, but the back needed something too. ““We all were laughing about it, like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so anarchic – can you imagine that on a T-shirt?’” says frontman Dani Filth. “We looked at each other conspiratorially, like, ‘Shall we?’ And yeah, we did it. Even at the time, we thought, ‘Well, this is pushing the boundaries a little bit.’”
In 2015 during an exhibit of vintage shirts at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, an unidentified woman jumped the ropes and spray-painted the Cradle of Filth tee that was on display. Over twenty years and counting it’s still pissing off the masses.