'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."

The Feedlindsay.com Web site has actually collected an online petition with more than 43,000 signatures urging Lindsay Lohan to stop losing weight.

"What you're seeing now are spoofs of spoofs," says Los Angeles graphic artist Sheila Cameron, who launched the Internet's "Free Katie" campaign in May, after she saw Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah Winfrey's couch, breathlessly declaring his love for Katie Holmes as something "beyond cool."

Within two weeks, more than half a million Internet users visited Cameron's site -- FreeKatie.net -- which offers hats, mugs, buttons and various apparel, including thongs, that say, "Run, Katie, Run" and "Stop Sofa Abuse."

Cameron's "Free Katie" shirt even popped up at the premiere for Lohan's latest movie, "Herbie: Fully Loaded." It was worn by actor Peter Pasco, who has a minor part in the film, and might not have received any media attention at the party, if not for the shirt that seemed to indicate his apparent stance on Tom Cruise's love life.

"It's nothing against the Scientologists," Pasco told The New York Times.

"I just think Katie should be free to call me at any time and hang out with me anytime.''

'Naomi Hit Me … And I Loved It'

When a novelty shirt isn't funny, few things can be more annoying, especially if the joke is on you. Last fall, the Olsen twins threatened to sue the manufacturer of "Save Mary Kate" shirts, even after the designer, Randy & Moss, vowed to pledge 20 percent of its profits to the National Eating Disorders Association.

But if you're a public personality, sometimes it's best to prove you can take a joke. Naomi Campbell tried showing that controversy suits her to a T, when she strutted through Manhattan in February in a shirt that read, "Naomi hit me … and I loved it."

A few months earlier, a judge ordered the catwalk queen to attend anger management classes, after former assistants complained that she had been physically and verbally abusive.

"We never imagined at first that Naomi would wear this. It's something we made for Fashion Week as a lark, because everyone in the fashion business was buzzing about it," says Pepper Foster of Chip and Pepper Designs in Los Angeles. "Finally, we sent one to her, and she decided to be a good sport."

With paparazzi photos published worldwide, stars are well aware of the broadcast potential of their chest and back -- turning them into living, breathing Super Bowl commercials for whatever they want to say.

Julia Roberts sent out her own cryptic message in 2002, when she was eager to marry Danny Moder, and chose to walk around one spring day in a shirt that read, "A Low Vera." It was something she never cared to explain.

Perhaps the "Pretty Woman" was advocating the healing qualities of aloe vera -- and she's merely a lousy speller. But many believe Roberts was sending a message to Moder's estranged wife, Vera, who was said to be stalling divorce proceedings.

When love goes awry, how can your average star resist not letting the world know? This is how everyone would communicate, if only the rest of the world cared what was written on the less-than-average person's shirt.

Last December, when reports surfaced that Lohan's ex-boyfriend, Wilmer Valderrama, was getting friendly with exotic dancers at a Los Angeles strip club, the "Mean Girls" star was soon seen in a T-shirt that read, "You Were Never My Boyfriend."

Valderrama has yet to be seen in clothing with a retaliatory message. But if he pulls on a snappy T, will it say "Feed Lindsay" … or simply "Fed Up With Lindsay"?

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.