Christian-Themed Apparel Sees Popularity Surge

ByABC News

CHICAGO, May 5, 2005 — -- Sales of clothing with Christian themes and imagery are booming, as evangelical Christians extend their faith to all corners of American life. These days, believers can wear their faith on their sleeves, their heads and even their feet.

"Religion and fashion are really becoming a big trend right now," said Jane Buckingham, president of The Intelligence Group, a research and trend analysis service.

Like many trends, it seems to have started in Hollywood.

The California clothing company Teenage Millionaire hit it big with shirts and hats featuring the slogan "Jesus Is My Homeboy," after fashion-forward celebrities were spotted brandishing the message.

"What better icon than Jesus?" said Doug Williams, Teenage Millionaire's creative director and co-owner. "We also do Jesus on a thermal [shirt], which is pretty cool."

The company has sold more than a million of the shirts in the last three years. They have since followed up with "Mary Is My Homegirl" merchandise.

"I think there is less fear for people to wear religious icon T-shirts now," said Williams. "And it did start with fashion, as flimsy as that is, and it went to the masses."

Sales of religious-themed apparel have taken off. In the last year alone, Christian booksellers sold $84 million worth of clothing and accessories -- not including all the religious gear sold at concerts, festivals and in non-Christian stores.

"After Sept. 11, everyone felt afraid," said Buckingham. "And religion is something that makes you feel, 'Even if the world is going crazy, there is something I can have faith in.' "

But the popularity of religious fashion has some concerned. They say reducing faith to a slogan on a shirt is far too simplistic and cheapens the message.

"The moment you make something fashionable, 10 seconds later it's not fashionable," said Don Miller, who writes about Christian culture. "So, is Christianity going to be thrown out as something that's unfashionable?"

Lori Devins doesn't think so. In January, she opened a shop in Kansas called Extreme Christian Clothing.

"It's very cool to be a Christian these days," she said.

With T-shirts carrying slogans such as "Satan Sucks," the merchandise her store sells certainly matches the name.

"There is no faith to have except extreme faith," said Devins, "and that's really what we're about."

Aurelio Barreto -- whose chain of C28 stores in Southern California caters to style-conscious, Christian teens -- prefers a more subtle approach.

"I'm just in this wave, and it's happening," said Barreto. "It's growing the demand. Our stores are up 20 percent some months, you know. What other retailer is doing that?"

Religious retailers hope they have hit on something with eternal appeal.

ABC News' Barbara Pinto filed this report for "World News Tonight."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events