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Toons on Tees – Eat My Shorts!

Blue. Spikey. Fast. What more could a boy want from a childhood hero? I’m talking, of course, about Sonic the Hedgehog – the computer game character that transcended the consoles and came to adorn bedroom walls, caps, jackets, rucksacks and t-shirts. (I personally had the PJs!) For any boy growing up in the 1990s, some sort of Sonic merchandise was absolutely de rigueur. Indeed, animated characters of every kind were in vogue. Remember Fido Dido the 7UP mascot? He lounged his way onto many a t-shirt and low-cut vest. And then there was Dennis the Menace and Gnasher; you could even find them on underpants. And what about Batman? The Pink Panther? And Ninja Turtles? ...I could go on, but you get the idea – cartoons on clothes were dead cool in the 1990s. Importantly, though, they were cool FOR KIDS. (And perhaps the odd raver.) Now, they’re “in” for adults too. And I have to say, I find this development a little weird.

Take the latest, limited edition, collection from Ellesse, for example. It’s a collaboration with Looney Tunes and it’s all 1980s/1990s-inspired t-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets – with Bugs, Tweety and Sylvester placed playfully around the pockets, zips and seams. It’s cool stuff. I do like it. But at the same time, you have to admit that it wouldn’t look amiss on a six-year-old.

HYPE X Looney Tunes
HYPE X Looney Tunes

Men of the past dressed with considerable panache. They cut a dash. Chaps of the Regency period rode about wearing tailcoats and cravats; Victorians wore top hats and carried ornate canes. Men in the 1960s went for trilbies and natty suits, and even their hippy counterparts put together some rather fetching looks – think of Jimmy Hendrix and his bandanas and jackets. In 2022, what do we find? Men opting for multi-coloured trainers with bits of plastic hanging off them, and t-shirts adorned with cutesy-wootsy characters. I’m not at all sure this is the thing. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should be terribly serious all the time and so high-minded that they don’t have any fun in life or in the way that they dress. But, may I remind you all that there is such a thing as sophistication? We all seem to have forgotten this concept today – what with our endless Marvel and Disney films, our relentless Emojis instead of words, and our syrupy coffees so laden with cream and sprinkles that they look like they’ve come straight out of Pizza Hut’s ice cream factory. Even the smokers among us are into bubble-gum and doughnut flavoured vapours, instead of good old cigarettes and cigars. What on earth has become of us?

Disney X Gucci
Disney X Gucci

Of course, we shouldn’t feel that we have to dress “like a grown-up” in order to be taken seriously in life or to do anything meaningful. And you might even argue that the ability to dress in a “childish” manner shows a maturity – that one is liberated from the labels of the past and can see clothes in a more enlightened way. But the fact is that if I see a man in his thirties walk into a pub wearing a big Bart Simpson on his t-shirt or a Mickey Mouse on his trainers, I can’t help but feel that he’s a wee bit under-developed. (Even if they are by Gucci!) I mean, why not just go the whole hog, dress up as Pumba and bounce along to a furry convention? It’s hardly a refined image, is it? Something else to bear in mind with this whole cartoons on clothes business, is that there’s a fine line between archetypal comic-book nerd and someone dressing with an intentional degree of nostalgia and irony. If you look like you’ve just stepped off the set of “The Big Bang Theory”, this is bad. If you’re clearly someone who has a bit of style about you and is adding a playful touch to your outfit then I suppose this is just about OK.

So, if you’re going to participate in this fashion and be cartoon-clad, please just do me a favour and use your judgement. Ellesse and Loony Tunes… yes. Star Wars socks… please, God, no!

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