Wed 18 Aug 2010
This has been a busy summer so far for Lincoln Apparel, and I’m enjoying it. I’ve released two new designs – "Wide Awake Club", which was created for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election this year, and a yellow version of my popular "80s Abe" T-shirt, which has also been reprinted and restocked in its three original colors as well (no longer are any of the sizes "temporarily out of stock"). All of these shirts are now available on the Lincoln Apparel website, as well as locally at Springfield Novelties and Gifts on 6th Street and at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market artisan area each Saturday.
The “Wide Awake Club” T-shirt has a lot of history behind it, and it was designed to resemble an 1860 Lincoln campaign banner or poster. In fact, during the creation of the shirt, I researched what many of these looked like, and incorporated their design style or elements into the design.
Before you ask, the "Wide Awakes" were localized, grassroots groups of young Lincoln supporters during the 1860 presidential campaign, thus the name of the T-shirt (and the reason why it says "Wide Awake Club"). I’ve already gotten asked this quite a bit, and I enjoy educating people about this (and other bits) of Lincoln history (my T-shirts do make great conversational pieces!). In fact, the "Wide Awakes" themselves had their own banners, with each club having a different design that was specific to their locality. One such banner is on display in the Old State Capitol, near the governor’s office. (It reads "LINCOLN, 3rd Ward, Mind Your Eye, WIDE AWAKES", and there is a picture of this Wide Awakes banner here.)
Now, obviously, with one T-shirt design it wouldn’t be possible to create a T-shirt for each specific locality (since I’d need to create a different design for each locality), so I had to settle for making a non-localized design. I based the design off of a picture of Lincoln often used during his 1860 Presidential campaign – the famous "Cooper Union" portrait, taken in February of 1860 in New York City, during a trip where he gave a famous speech that helped convince Easterners, and the nation, that he was a serious contender for President.
Now, in 1860, the process of "halftoning" – using dots of different sizes to print photographs and other images with gradients – had not been invented yet. So instead of using a photograph and having it printed with halftones on the shirt, I used a lithograph instead, which is what would have been printed in newspapers and on posters and the like in 1860. I artistically divided it into red and blue colors, since I knew I was going to use those patriotic colors for my design. I then focused on other common elements used in Lincoln election propoganda in 1860 – slogans like "Honest Old Abe" and "Railsplitter of the West", and imagery related to Lincoln’s frontier roots and his "Railsplitter" moniker, which I added into the lower portion of the design, under the lower half of the oval-shaped portrait of Lincoln.
Finishing up the design, I added 33 stars above the portrait of Lincoln – one for each state in the Union in 1860. (In fact, the flag that flies above the Old State Capitol is a 33 star flag – otherwise, it wouldn’t be fully restored to its 1860 appearance.) Finally, I added the text, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN for President 1860", below all of the artwork. I used fonts that were in common use on posters and banners 1860 for this and the other textual elements of the design.
All of these design elements come together to create a new original design, that resembles an 1860 Lincoln campaign poster or banner, and translates to the T-shirt medium well. Not that wearing something to support your candidate was necessarily new back then – people wore ribbons, typically emblazoned with their candidate’s picture, to support their candidate, just how nowadays, people wear T-shirts and buttons. So, in a lot of ways, the campaign T-shirt is the descendant of the campaign ribbon, except it’s bigger, like a banner. I can easily see Lincoln supporters wearing this T-shirt in 1860 if T-shirts existed then. (You can read more about the 1860 election in this post).
However, now you can show your support for Lincoln today (don’t you wish he could be president sometimes?) by wearing this T-shirt. It’s a cream colored T-shirt, instead of a white one, to make it feel old and authentic. Cool, isn’t it?
And speaking of cool stuff, my popular "80s Abe" T-shirt, representing a Lincoln for a different past era, one I love and that I grew up in, has been reprinted and is now in stock again. (You can read more about the creation of the "80s Abe" T-shirt here.) This time, I added a new color – yellow – in addition to the black, blue, and green colors, and the sizes now start at small instead of medium, since I’ve had people ask me why I don’t have any small. (I originally thought the design would be too big for that size, that’s why, but it really isn’t – the new shirts have the same 17×20 inch print as the old ones).
Interestingly, "80s Abe" has sold well and enjoyed a great reception amongst people of all generations, not just my own. I’ve sold that shirt to younger people, and older people as well. The 1980s were a time of great creativity amongst many different types of art and creative work; this goes to show that great art and creative work is timeless and appeals to any generation, much like Lincoln.
Another interesting thing is that "80s Abe" actually has no words (unless you want to count Lincoln’s signature). I think this sums up how I feel about T-shirts in general – the great ones need no words, just great artwork. I’ve never been one to wear simple funny text T-shirts; rather, I’ve always enjoyed making the world a brighter place by wearing cool artistic T-shirts. I love the T-shirt as an art medium since it’s wearable, so other people can see the artistic message, and spread it, instead of it just being something to hang on your wall, and because T-shirts provide a rather large "canvas" on which to "paint" your design.
Possibly related posts (automatically generated):
- New “80s Abe” Lincoln T-shirts available now.
- Lincoln Apparel’s first year: a look back
- New “Young Mr. Lincoln” T-shirt coming soon!
- New features available on lincolnapparel.com
- The new “Immortal Words at Gettysburg” T-shirts are in!