The tits tee: 40-year odyssey of a design classic

One of our most popular posts is also one of the earliest: The strange and intriguing story of the ‘tits tee’.

Who would have thought this single article of clothing would contain such a legacy?

Maybe it speaks of the universal breast fixation, but the fact is that this design – at once simple and complex – continues its journey from art project to novelty item to radical fashion apparel and eventually to 21st century art object.

Along the way this tale absorbs such disparate elements as Rhode Island School Of Design, Oz magazine, Bourbon Street, the King’s Road, Alice Cooper, the LA Free Press and Forum in the 70s, The Face in the mid-80s, the late lamented model, boutique owner and novelist Pat Booth, the implosion of the New York Dolls and the rise of the Sex Pistols, the Met’s Anglomania exhibition of 2006 and much, much more.

//Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones keeps ’em hid in Seditionaries version, Sweden, 1977. Photo: Dennis Morris//

Imponderables abound; the stock of the first edition produced for a college yearbook in 1969 was stolen by persons unknown, which maybe account for the variations down the years.

The final mystery is that nobody can remember the name of the original model.

A room-mate of the students who came up with the concept, like the Mona Lisa she has receded into history leaving not an enigmatic smile but a pair of perfectly formed breasts to entrance forever.

Look upon the following and learn:

Part 1: It came from Rhode Island

Part 2: Wonder Workshop’s wonderful breasts

Part 3: SEX & The Tits Tee

This is THE LOOK’s three part three-part special, based on testimony supplied exclusively by the key protagonists, presenting rarely seen images and previously unpublished and updated interviews and information for the first time anywhere, ever.


John Dove and Molly White said,

August 10, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

Hiya Paul – We probably shouldn’t be enthusing about something we’re part of but we gotta say it – The Tit’s T-Shirt odyssey is such an illuminating piece – First of all, it was great you made the tribute to Pat Booth – she was a beautiful woman with multi-talents – The Times obituary referred to her as “an icon of the 60’s” – she was.

We never realized the Charlie Watts Tits Tee was early 1969 – amazing getting the detail from the “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out” photo-session. Hey! do you think Charlie would tell us where he bought it – New York? LA? Portobello Road? Rhode Island?

Love your reference to the Mona Lisa enigma ………

There seems to be more Tits Tees emerging from America and we’ve had a few emails where people can remember owning one but can’t remember where or exactly when they were purchased.

Can we spot the difference? The T-shirt in the LA Times ad looks different to all the others, don’t ya think? Charlie’s and Alice’s appear to be the same one but Siouxsie’s looks different again so does Steve’s……

It was a real surprise that the Tits Tee in Nick Knight’s brilliant FACE photograph wasn’t by Vivienne but in fact by the Kensington Market company called ‘Pure Sex’ …… Sheron, the model, was a friend of our daughter and was singing in a band called ‘Savajazz’ in ’85 and at the time of the Nick Knight photograph in ’86, was in another band called – ‘Pure Sex’.

Malcolm’s Big Easy Tit’s T-shirt story with Sylvain Sylvain reads like a scene from a Bret Easton Ellis Paperback and appears to be yet another Tits design! – Now all we need to know ………… WHO are the mystery girls?

Paul G said,

August 11, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

Hi J&D

Great to read your inside-view comments – though Charlie watts bought his tee in late 69 around the time of Altamont by the look of it.

Will check later but there was a photo-feature on Sherron in the following issue of The Face which I will dig out.

And yes, who were the mystery girls? Looks like we’ll never know…apart from the fact that the original Jizz model lived downstairs from a couple of RISD students in Providence in 1969…


planet mondo said,

August 18, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

Amazing. Truly amazing. A perfect piece, informative, educational and entertaining. And I’ve never noticed Charlie Watts wearing one before.

One thing though are the tits on the McLaren/Westwood design the same ones on the 69 version? Or was a different model used?

rockpopfashion said,

August 19, 2009 @ 7:07 am

Thanks for your kind words.

That is another element of the mystery – they are almost definitely different. Compare the no-bra ad with Jonesey in 76; not the same in terms of print size or, er, breast shape.

My guess is that Jizz came up with the idea and over the next few years other novelty tee manufacturers produced their own version(s) one of which McLaren then picked up in 1975 in New Orleans.

And his decision to replicate from a tee, rather than a screen, then would have affected the image/degraded it and made it his own.

[…] epic t-shirt (to wear to job interviews and family christenings, obviously). Click here to read a totally interesting and absorbing series of posts about the evolution of the Tits […]

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