Politics, fashion and creative writing had never seen a better amalgamation than the current times. Student unrests like Jadavpur University’s #hokkolorob (2014), Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital’s #nrsmovement (2019) and the general strife against the National Registration of Citizens #nrc (2020) did see some creative juices flowing in terms of T-shirt slogans in Kolkata. But with time, wearing T-shirts with catchy messages has become a trend for youngsters in the city.
Writing on the wall
A protest slogan T-shirt has now become a shield to counter unpleasant campus incidents and forced political agendas. Debasmita Chowdhury of digital printer Ichchhedana has been receiving frequent orders for customised slogan T-shirts. So much so that she can’t promise delivery before April for orders placed now. “Students of JU, Presidency, medical colleges and Asutosh College buy a lot of these. Especially, the recent passouts who are not only politically aware but still attached to the causes of their respective campuses. T-shirts with slogans like ‘Desh Karor Baper Noy’ and ‘Shob Beche De’ sold like hot cakes recently,” she said.
Protest wear has the same impact that placards and sloganeering have, feel some. Presidency student Koushani Mukhopadhyay said, “If I wear T-shirts with messages, they are always politically sound. I like shouting out my political beliefs or making a statement through my clothes.”
The polarisation of the political scenario in Bengal has further encouraged the trend among these youngsters. Anish Roy, the owner of Aum Printers that deal in customised T-shirts, receives bulk orders and individual requests for writings like ‘Khela Hobe’ and ‘Inqilab’. “In the past few months, we have delivered several of these pieces and with the elections coming closer, the demand is increasing,” he said, adding that he also delivered T-shirts which had the social media trend ‘Vinod’ written on them.
Souriya Das, the owner of T-Shirt Printing Facility, said that a couple of years ago they designed a T-shirt that read ‘Rum Bhakt Humans’ and received a lot of flak. So, they are avoiding political slogans now. “But we don’t deny orders if individuals come to us with their designs. It then becomes their responsibility,” Souriya added.
What are they wearing?
Bhabo Bhabo Bhaba Practise KoroDada Ami Shathe Pache Thaki NaShob Mone Rakha HobeAmra Ki Cha Khabo Na?InqilabImmortal beings, timeless appeal The usual Che Guevara, Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray and Nabarun Bhattacharya lines on T-shirts always find takers. ‘Dori Dhorey Maro Tan, Raja Hobe Khan Khan’ and ‘Bhabo Bhabo, Bhaba Practise Koro’ are all-time favourites. But of late what has hit the bullseye are T-shirts with the famous Guy Fawkes mask, the best-known member of the Gunpowder Plot in London. While the mask has been a symbol of resistance and anti-establishment for decades, a recent Spanish web series has made it even more popular among the youngsters.According to Saptarshi Chowdhury of Presidency University, clothes have a huge role to play in determining human character and tastes. “Wearing T-shirts with famous dialogues from one of the most popular TV shows, Friends, or with other witty messages, help me project my nature well. These reflect my personality and also make a fashion statement for me,” he said, adding that his favourites are ‘They Don’t Know That We Know They Know We Know’, ‘Na Left Wing Na Right Wing Shudhu Chicken Wing’ and ‘Durotyo Bojay Rakhun’
Out of the box
Youngsters are not stopping at socially- relevant messages, humour and protest slogans. “Most customised T-shirt orders that I receive range from geeky signs and swag lines to computer codes and fest logos. Jadavpur University, IIT Kharagpur, XLRI Jamshedpur and IIM students are my regular customers. They bring to the table innovative designs and the most abstract lines,” said Debopam Roy, co-founder of Teeshood.
Besides, an upcoming quirky T-shirt message trend called trash talk is fast catching up. “The font looks like Sanskrit or any other classical language script but when you read carefully, you read an English slang,” shared Rwitobroto Mukherjee, actor and Jadavpur University student.
Souriya’s skills were challenged by a youngster asking for a T-shirt that read ‘Ganatantra’ (Democracy). “He asked me to design it in a way that the ‘Ga’ of ‘Ganatantra’ looks like a question mark,” he said.
But at the same time, leaving nothing to imagination, some youngsters prefer to make bold statements. “Instead of wearing suggestive political party colour T-shirts, they prefer a strong slogan to make their stand clear,” said Saptarshi Mitra, owner of HJBRL.