British resident Allen Jasson was refused entry to a Qantas flight in Melbourne recently because he was wearing a t-shirt showing a picture of George W Bush with the words “World’s #1 Terrorist”. According to Qantas, this had the “potential to offend” customers and “threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft”. Here, Melanie Hick, editor of T-Journal: The Journal of T-Shirt Culture, writes:

T-shirts are all about self-expression. Whether you love AC/DC, you quite fancy New York or you hate George Bush, a big brash print splashed across your chest is the quick, simple and modern way of expressing it.

Allen Jasson has got a point. However contentious his t-shirt is, he should be free to express his opinion. And right now, he wants to do it in t-shirt form. We don’t have an American-style bill of rights, but we sure do have a culture of saying, fair dinkum, exactly what you think. This whole controversy challenges that.

Qantas also has a duty to its customers. How peeved would you be if his t-shirt provoked a fight at 30,000 feet? Imagine: drinks go flying, someone cops a black eye, babies start screaming and my peanuts and gin are delayed because the crew are too busy trying to quell the conflict. That flight to London is hard enough to bear. Add some argy bargy and it would become absolutely hideous.

The winner in all of this is the t-shirt. This proves yet again that if you’ve got something to say, get it on your chest. Jasson made his point, and it confirms that the t-shirt is the number one way of silently pledging your allegiance or presenting an opinion.

One thing’s for sure: sales will not be suffering at the backwater print house that came up with that t-shirt design. More blank tees and packing boxes are being ordered right now.

Peter Fray

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