Graphic tees get a bad rep. OK, the way most of us wore them as teenagers; yes, it was cringe. But print tees deserve more respect. They just need to be styled thoughtfully, to find that fine line between pulling the look off and making a conspicuous fashion faux pas.
Whisper it: graphic t-shirts allow for some fun and creativity - especially in the sustainable fashion world, where timelessness and minimalism prevail. That’s all well and good but all that monotonous elegance can get a bit boring after a while...
So, here are a few good reasons to wear graphic tees:
- To spread a meaningful message
- To support brands, musicians, or whoever you align with
- To promote creativity and artistic expression
- To show your personality and interests
Did you know?
Before we get into our styling tips, did you know that graphic tees have colourful history? Graphic tees were adopted by film, the military, and, by the 70s, rock music - where T-shirts became a ‘blank canvas’ for self-expression. Graphic tees then surged in popularity even more in the 80s thanks to icons like Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett who put bold political slogans on t-shirts to get powerful messages across.
So, how to style a graphic t-shirt?
Here are 8 ways to style different kinds of graphic tees.
And men, don’t look away! This style guide is suitable for men, women, and non-binary folk. All outfits can be adjusted to what you like to wear most. Denim jeans can be narrower or baggier; sunglasses can be round or pointed, and jewellery can be added or avoided.
1. Vintage style
Think leather or denim jeans, a leather or denim jacket, sunglasses, and of course - a vintage graphic tee. The best kinds of graphic tees for this outfit are old-school band logos and band art.
For a spring/summer option, go for an oversized graphic tee with biker shorts, stockings, denim shorts, denim jeans, or even tailored trousers which can sometimes work. To make this a bit more feminine, go for a baggy cropped graphic tee instead! Pair with black boots like Dr. Martens.
Pro-tip: with bands, to avoid any awkward chat from people who love the band you’re rocking - it can be even better to like the music. Or support a band that you're a fan of.
2. Matching set
Matching sets and their aesthetically pleasing look guarantee you a compliment. The print can be any kind that you like - geometric, tie-dye, colour blocks, or any kind of pattern.
Not all graphic tees need to be outlandish. They can also contribute to a minimalist outfit. Popular brands like Carhartt have t-shirts with simple logos or small artwork that subtly catch the eye. Graphic tees can sometimes be pretty out there, so this graphic tee style works well for simpler yet stylish outfits.
Graphic tees have a history of being worn to share a powerful message. And they still can be. What you wear has the potential to show your stance on a topic to people crossing your path throughout the day - whether it’s your views on feminism, climate change, politics, you name it.
This type of graphic tee should be paired with simpler items so that the message stands out. Wearing other eye-catching items can divert from the message of the t-shirt.
5. Street style / artsy
Graphic tees are perfect to achieve the street-style look. Opt for one that’s based on a work of art or aesthetic design, to contribute a sartorial burst of colour and creativity.
This look works best if the t-shirt is oversized and paired with baggy jeans, joggers, or cargo trousers and sneakers. To accessorise, wear a hat or docker beanie and a sling, and you’re great to go. One takeaway here is to always think of matching colours. Is your graphic tee mainly green? Wear a green hat or green shoes. Then combine with white or black jeans or another colour that complements green well.
6. Dungarees / Overalls
Dungarees / overalls are a game-changer. They look good, they’re easy to style, and best of all they’re comfortable. And yep, graphic tees can be worn underneath your dungarees! Leave a button open or closed to expose the shirt more or less, up to you - but a graphic tee will give you a refreshingly edgy look when combined this way.
7. Long sleeves
A classic: baggy t-shirt worn over a long-sleeved t-shirt. This look doesn’t get old and it’s perfect for graphic tees, whereas blank tees would make you look a bit boring.
With a print tee, you also have more colour combination possibilities. It’s a top opportunity to get the colours matching and the whole outfit in sync, uniquely.
8. Dress it up
Blending a graphic tee into something more formal and fancy can be a bit more challenging than the rest of the styles we’ve covered. But it’s not impossible! It can work.
To pull this style off, opt for tailored trousers, chinos, a leather skirt, or straight-leg jeans in a neutral colour like beige or black. Pair with heels, boots/high-heel boots, or loafers. You can even tuck in the t-shirt into the trousers and wear a belt. Then, judiciously deploy accessories to make the outfit a bit more formal, like a gold chain or bracelet. A bag is mandatory - a bum bag or purse will do too but avoid more casual bags (e.g. a tote bag).
So there you have it! Eight pretty impressive outfit ideas using a graphic tee. Hopefully at least one of these inspired you because graphic tees can be cool. Here at POMP, we love them - particularly our Show Your Stripes tee which allows us to spread sustainability throughout our day by highlighting global warming.
The warming stripes visual on our t-shirts sparks conversations with people who’ve never seen the intriguing stripes before, and for people who have, we might even make some new friends. Either way, we’ve created a connection. You can’t say that about minimalist basics.
Have you had any fun experiences while wearing graphic tees? Or do you have any style tips we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!