T-shirt trend is prophet-driven

January 01, 1998|By Karen Auge | Karen Auge,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

There are slick designer knockoffs -- like an appropriation of the familiar CK logo in which the C K stands for Christ the King rather than Calvin Klein.

There are blunt and brazenly gory messages: "His Pain, Your Gain," alongside a drawing of a nail driven through a bloody palm.

Ancient Druids had their trademark hair shirts. The Puritans were known for their drab, unadorned garments. And in the 1990s, evangelical-minded Christians, particularly teens and young adults, have their T-shirts.

"Today, the trend is to wear your faith in a very visual way," said Rod Teuber, president of Joshua's Christian Stores.

But others say it's crass marketing, cartoon Christianity.

And still others, such as Tommy Hilfiger, don't appreciate the joke. The Hong Kong-based designer of pricey casual wear has gotten wind of businessman Vic Kennett's knockoff of his signature shirts and ordered Kennett to knock it off.

Kennett, founder and president of Arkansas-based Kerusso Active Wear, said he's working on a modified design that evokes Hilfiger's but isn't identical.

Kerusso's success -- Kennett figures he recently sold his millionth shirt -- has come even as about 30 competitors churn out their own takes on Scripture and fashion. One, Grants Pass, Ore.-based Living Epistles, describes its shirts as "The Best Witness You Can Wear." Another, Exodus Apparel in Pittsburgh, uses the more sobering slogan, "Clothing for the End Times."

In the Baltimore area, the T-shirts are available at Cokesbury Books and Church Supplies, The Jesus Shop at Mondawmin Mall, Lamp Book Ministry and Praise the Lord in Parkville.

Success, Kennett said, isn't measured in dollars alone.

After a recent game, Kennett said he saw Oakland Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman extolling his team's prowess on television while sporting one of Kerusso's "Football is My Game but Jesus is My Life" models.

Kennett takes such displays as examples that his message is reaching millions, which he says has helped quiet critics who accuse him of trivializing his faith or capitalizing on it. "I think that people realize now that it's a good way to witness without having to preach."

Pub Date: 1/01/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.