'Free Winona' to 'Talentless,' Celebs Let T-Shirts Do the Talking

These days in Hollywood, if you've got something to say, wear it.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming three years ago, when Winona Ryder graced the cover of W magazine in her "Free Winona" T-shirt. Suddenly, a celebrity could plaster any self-serving message on a shirt, and pass it off as either fashion or a press release -- or both.

We now have to deal with the likes of a pregnant Britney Spears walking the red carpet at the premiere of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in a midriff-revealing top that bore the message, "I have the golden ticket" -- punctuated with an arrow pointing toward the baby in her tummy.

Britney's fashion statement -- which she obviously did need to spell out -- might as well have been, "Hey, everybody, I'm pregnant!" Husband Kevin Federline nodded his approval as he squired her past photographers like a dutiful Oompa Loompa.

The Court of Public Apparel

Our T-shirts speak volumes. They announce our favorite TV shows, sports teams, consumer products and political affiliations. But when Shakespeare noted that, "The apparel oft proclaims the man," did he ever imagine Jessica Simpson sashaying around in a shirt that reads, "Talentless But Connected"?

What about Tori Spelling? She recently stepped out with this message printed on her top: "My Dog Can beat up Paris Hilton's Dog."

In an age when eBay auctions allow you to buy advertising space on other people's foreheads, celebrities have embraced the T-shirt as a form of self-promotion and self-exploitation that goes far beyond a simple "I'm With Stupid."

In one of the summer's biggest celebrity mea culpas, Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" apologized to Jennifer Aniston for walking around Hollywood in an "I'll Have Your Baby, Brad" shirt, shortly after Aniston and Brad Pitt announced they were separating.

"I do regret wearing it," Longoria told reporters shortly after Aniston's Vanity Fair interview was published. "I have written to Jennifer Aniston to express my sympathies over her marriage."

Oh, how the irony of T-shirt slogans can haunt you. In January 2004 -- just a year before the big breakup -- a chipper Aniston hosted "Saturday Night Live" with a T-shirt proclaiming "I Love Brad Pitt."

Team Aniston vs. Team Jolie

Of course, Longoria didn't special-order her "Brad" shirt. Fans of pop culture have near limitless options from Internet vendors to express their loyalties. Buy a "Team Aniston" T-shirt -- one of the hottest items on Shopkitson.com -- and you are clearly voicing your disapproval of "Team Jolie," which are also for sale.

Angelina Jolie may have stolen Pitt away from Aniston, but in the court of public apparel, Aniston is the decisive winner. Aniston's shirts are outselling her rival's by 25-to-1, according to Shopkitson.com. No word yet if anyone's joining "Team Longoria."

"The T-shirt has become a form of public dialogue," says Sonja Jacob, publisher of StyleChronicles.com, a shopping news Web site. "It's almost like a form of blogging. Everyone has a chance to express an opinion, take sides and make a joke. And it's true for stars as well as their fans."

Certainly modern American politics -- from "Impeach Nixon" to "Just Say No" to drugs -- has a tradition for advocacy apparel. But somewhere along the line, messages like "Free Nelson Mandela" morphed into "Free Winona," and now "Feed Lindsay."

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