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Wearing History: T-Shirts from the Gay Rights Movement Steve Gdula

Americans wear their hearts on their short sleeves. Washed and pressed for us here are fifty iconic t-shirts from the archives of the San Francisco LGBT Historical Society. Reading Steve Gdula�s commentaries is like browsing at the Goodwill charity shop on Castro Street (where I found my �International Mr Leather 1991� t-shirt), a twinkly old volunteer explaining the lamda symbol, Harvey Milk and Act Up.

With some colour or archive photos, or more interesting models, the t-shirts would stand up on their own as a quirky study in gay material culture. But they are just the inserts in a stodgy decade-by-decade plod through the history of the gay rights movement, which hardly mentions the t-shirts. Gdula knows his stuff, but he does it no favours with his dreary voiceover: �No longer timidly watching from the sidelines, gays and lesbians began demanding equality�. I am, like, whatever.

Gdula knowledgably deconstructs the plain white tee, as worn by soldiers, bikers, Stanley Kowalski, and gay men. Interestingly, he doesn�t note that the Nobody Knows I�m A Lesbian t-shirt is now only worn by straight boys to show irony and edge, and, to boos at a Stonewall event in the �90s, by Richard Gere.