Illegal T-shirt

Illegal T-shirt

This is a listing of cases where the sale or wearing of specific items of clothing carrying slogans has been illegal or subject to legal challenge. T-shirts are the usual garment used for this purpose.


There have been arrests in Britain of people wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase "Bollocks to Blair". This has provoked much debate on whether Britain's freedom of speech is being eroded. [ [ Wear an anti-Blair jacket... and you'll have your collar felt - Telegraph ] ] .
* In September 2005, 20-year-old Charlotte Dennis was arrested at a Gloucestershire event for wearing this item [ [ Girl arrested over Bollocks to Blair shirt - Hunting news - Horse & Hound ] ]
* In April 2006, a Conservative Party worker was threatened with arrest for wearing a "Bollocks to Blair" T-shirt [ [ BBC NEWS | England | London | Arrest threat over anti-PM jacket ] ] .
* In a non-political case in August 2007, a man was warned he could be fined for wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "don't piss me off, I'm running out of places to hide the bodies" [ [ BBC NEWS | England | Cambridgeshire | Fine threat over T-shirt slogan ] ] .
* The band Cradle of Filth have produced a highly blasphemous t-shirt discussed here, which has been the cause of prosecutions from the late 1990s

outh Africa


During South Africa's apartheid era, Robin Houston Holmes was charged with the production and distribution of illegal material for creating and distributing anti-apartheid T-shirts, reading "We are Everywhere, Even in your Kitchen" and "Mxenge, The Struggle Continues," as well one featuring activist Steve Biko. Holmes was later granted amnesty for his actions. [ [ Trc Statement On "Illegal" T-Shirts Amnesty ] ]

United States

"Fuck the Draft"

In "Cohen v. California" 403 U.S. 15 (1971) Paul Robert Cohen, 19, was arrested for wearing a jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft" inside the Los Angeles Courthouse. He was convicted of violating section 415 of the California Penal Code, which prohibits "maliciously and willfully [disturbing the peace (crime)|disturb [ing] the peace] or quiet of any neighborhood or person [by] offensive conduct."

The conviction was appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which held that "offensive conduct" means "behavior which has a tendency to provoke others to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace," and affirmed the conviction.

The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, overturned the appellate court's ruling. It said::"Absent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions, the State may not, consistently with the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment, make the simple public display of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense."

"George W. Bush: International Terrorist"

A high school junior in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Bretton Barber, was asked to remove his anti-George W. Bush T-shirt in the lead up to the Iraq War. It featured a picture of Bush with the words "International Terrorist." He was asked to remove it because it supported terrorism. [ High School] The student sued his school district and his principal in Federal District Court in Detroit, Michigan ("Bretton Barber v. Dearborn Public Schools" [286 F. Supp. 2d 847] ). In a 25-page published opinion, Barber won the lawsuit, and his high school was ordered to allow him to wear the shirt.

"Give Peace a Chance"

In the leadup to the Iraq War, a man was asked to leave a shopping mall by a security guard because of his "Give Peace a Chance" T-shirt. [ link|date=May 2008]

"Meet the Fuckers"

In October 2005, Lorrie Heasley, of Portland, Oregon, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in Reno, Nevada for wearing a T-shirt displaying an image of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown with the caption "Meet the Fuckers," spoofing the film title "Meet the Fockers". [ [ Southwest boots woman from flight over a T-shirt - 7 October 2005 ] ]

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