The politics of the ’80s were soon shown via pop stars Wham! when they adopted the designs of British designer Katherine Hamnett and her memorable t-shirt: Choose Life.
Hamnett had created a series of oversized white t-shirts with block letter design. The Choose Life t-shirt was addressing the issues of suicide and drug abuse, a prevalent problem of early 1980s Britain.
The simple, bold tshirt logo of Choose Life captured the attention of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! was the one that said Choose Life.
Wearing it in their music video in 1983 for their pop single Wake Me Up Before You Go Go!, the duo added a political dash to their lightweight dance music.
Teen fans, wanting to emulate their band, soon began to seek out the t-shirts, and found the originals as well as numerous knockoffs. But Wham! weren’t the only fans – Roger Taylor of Queen also wore the Hamnett t-shirt in the band’s video of the song Hammer to Fall as well as wearing another tshirt at the inaugaral Rock ‘n’ Rio Festival.
Hamnett’s t-shirts were making a statement – from nuclear war to pollution to preserving our wildlife – and were clear messages about what needed to be done, not just pop culture marketing messages.
In 1984, Paul Morley, seeing the success of Hamnett’s design, created the logo Frankie Say for Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The t-shirts were designed exactly like Hamnett’s t-shirts and featured the words Frankie Say Relax, Frankie Say Don’t Do It and Frankie Say War! Hide Yourself.
This bold tshirt design was a recognizable style that continued through the decade and still brings back the memories of the political activism hid in between the pop dance lyrics of Brit new wave in the early 1980s.