It’s easy to laugh off “I Love New York” t-shirts as a temporary trend that became a pop-culture fixture, but dismissing it as a cultural phenomenon is not a wise decision. The popularity of these simply-designed t-shirts, with their simple but timeless statement, is a useful lesson to anyone interested in marketing, design, or sociology in general.
“I Love New York” t-shirts date back to 1977, when New York State hired a major advertising firm (Wells Rich Greene) and an independent designer (Milton Glaser) to help come up with a temporary tourism marketing campaign for New York State. In one of the greatest marketing ironies of all time, the “I Love New York” t-shirts and associated products were a hit — but they were a hit forever associated with the city of New York, rather than the state, as intended.
This points to the first important factor in analyzing “I Love New York” t-shirts. The point is not the information these shirts convey, but their ability to remind people of what they’re already thinking, and to catalyze action based on that. When someone sees another person wearing an “I Love New York” t-shirt, their reaction isn’t “Oh! How persuasive! I guess I should love New York, too!” It
‘s something entirely different: “I do love New York.”
Most of us don’t have any illusions about how other people think of the city. We all know that there are at least eight million reasons to love the city, and probably plenty more that aren’t quite compelling enough. But when people wear “I Love New York” t-shirts, they’re thinking of whatever makes the city special to them: perhaps an older person is remembering the first time they visited the city, or their years there as a student and a starving artist; someone else might remember the hours of shopping on Fifth Avenue, or spending all day in the Barnes “> Author Box Byrne Hobart has 1 articles online
Byrne Hobart is a New Yorker with widely, perhaps even bizarrely varied interests. He is one of the few people who dares to wear “I Love New York” t-shirts while actually in New York.
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