WHAM, Slogan T-shirts, and Katherine Hamnett

Although George Michael (1963 – 2016) was not a fashion designer, he was influential in bringing success to English designer Katharine Hamnett. The 32-year-old English born Hamnett was a graduate of London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art when she founded her label in 1979.

In 1983 Hamnett launched a collection of oversized t-shirts with large block letter slogans. When George Michael and Andrew Ridgely of WHAM wore Hamnett’s ‘Choose Life’ shirts in their Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go video in May 1984, Hamnett’s shirts became not only successful political statement fashions, but also internationally-recognized iconic images of the 1980s. After the Choose Life slogan, intended as an anti-suicide message, was appropriated by the anti-abortion movement, the slogan was dropped from Hamnett’s production.

In 1996 Hamnett won the first ever British Fashion Award as Britain’s favourite designer, and in 2011, Hamnett was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her service to the British fashion industry.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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2 Responses to WHAM, Slogan T-shirts, and Katherine Hamnett

  1. Deb says:

    Very interesting Jonathan. Thanks for posting. I did not know Choose Life was originally an anti-suicide message. RIP George Michael. Who else will we lose before this cursed year ends?!?!

    • Jonathan says:

      To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know it was an anti-suicide message either until I read that last night!

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