What Are You Wearing?

The history behind your favourite brands, slogans, and logos

Written by: Jocelyn Courneya

Edited by: Patricia Michelena

Have you ever purchased a t-shirt, or liked and reposted an image because you thought, “Hey, that looks really cool,” but didn’t know the true symbolism or meaning behind it? It is likely we’ve all been a culprit of this at one point or another. Liking how something looks is a major part of our reasoning for purchasing or sharing something. However, many popularized brands and organizations come accompanied by logos and imagery that carry a much deeper meaning than “looking cool”. Some of our favourite slogans and brands come with stories containing much greater historical and social meanings than you may have thought.

To give you some more insight on the t-shirt you’re wearing, or last picture you liked on the Facebook page of your favourite organization, uOPRA has broken down the history behind some of our favourite logos, slogans and brands.

Slogan: Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm-And-Carry-On

We use it when we fail a test, miss out on our morning coffee, or are facing a tough assignment at work. “Keep Calm and Carry On” is a prime example of a slogan that has not only been decorating offices, coffee mugs, bedroom walls, and t-shirts over the years, but carries its use into our daily lives.

History: While it may be fairly new in popular use, the beloved logo is actually over half a century old. The white lettering on top the union jack, is a product of the propaganda initiatives of the British government, used during the Second World War.

These posters decorated England in attempts to lower anxieties over the ongoing war and attacks within and outside of Europe. The posters were apparently disposed of entirely after the war had ended, and resurfaced decades later, after one of the historical posters was rediscovered. Instead of just applying to war, the popularized image now encourages calmness in our day-to-day anxieties.

Organization: Anonymous (Guy Fawkes Mask)

Mask

If you’re a fan of their work, or consider yourself a twenty-first century activist, slacktivist, or hacktivist, chances are you have at least noticed the grin wearing masks commonly dawned by many of today’s protesters and anarchists. Often the most recognized wearers of these identity-hiding masks are those members of the online activist group Anonymous. Maybe you’ve worn one yourself, have shown your support for the group through a profile picture or cover photo, or recognize the image from the film V for Vendetta. Whatever the connection may be, many do not know the story of the face behind the mask, or in this case, the face that is the mask.

History: The white anonymous mask is created in the image of 17th century rebel and British anarchist, Guy Fawkes. Fawkes was a member of a group of English Catholics who had plotted to blow up the house of lords, and assassinate and dethrone the Protestant King James, in what is historically known as the Gunpowder Plot. Although the plan was debunked by an anonymous letter of warning sent to the monarchy, fictional stories and images of Fawkes, created long after his death, made the early rebel a symbolic figure of protest and anarchy.

Many moons later, the face of Fawkes, in the form of a mask, was outfitted to the anarchist main character in the Alan Moore and David Lloyd comic V for Vendetta. The comic was later adopted as a popular film. The mask is now worn by many to symbolize their movements in overthrowing and denying current systems of power and control, and can be seen in use online by many hacktivist groups, and on popular websites like 4Chan.

Company: Chanel

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While you may not be in the position to afford one of their designer fashion products, chances are that the logo of this famous fashion line has caught your attention a time or two.

History: Following popularized rumours from within the fashion industry, the designer brand’s famous interlocked CC logo is not just a symbol for the name of the organization’s founder Coco Chanel. Other theories state that the logo actually comes from the original emblem on the Château de Crémat in Nice, France. The interlocking Cs can be viewed on the stained glass window of the chateau, which can be viewed in the image below.

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Fun fact, the font used in the logo was designed specifically for Chanel!

Brand: Obey

obey-pic

While you may recognize this logo being sported by skateboarders, Tyler the Creator and being stamped across your boyfriend’s favourite snapback, the famous red and white logo goes beyond being just the symbol for a popular clothing company.

History: Shepard Fairey is the man behind the brand, creating the popularized abstract sticker of late wrestler Andre the Giant while studying art in Rhode Island in 1989. Fairey’s sticker sparked a movement of embracing a “do-it-yourself” mindset through street art, which carried on into North American punk and skate culture.

If you’ve ever taken an interest in the street-art culture, take notice of the tag lines and stickers used by some artists to publicly advertise their works. While the Obey logo has greatly grown in recent popularity, being found in stores like Urban Outfitters, the logo symbolizes a large movement within the underground art world. The idea of Obey acting as an oxymoron is that its real messaging is to “disobey” popularized advertisements and propaganda, and instead embrace individualism and freedom.

So, what’s in a brand? Much more than you may think. Those daily symbols and images we may have become almost numb to have a lot more to say than you may think. Have a brand you love or organization you support? Check out their origins, chances are by wearing, sharing, and supporting them, you’re saying more than you thought.

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