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REVENGE OF THE IRONIC ANIMALS: T-shirt with gazelle from Grn Apple Tree.


Creatures Featured

By Jessica Fromm

WEARING animal prints can be a tricky business, especially when they depict actual creatures, not just leopard spots or zebra stripes. Elegant birds and frilly flowers have long adorned women's garments, but recently there seems to be an influx of prints and patterns celebrating the animal kingdom in both men and women's garb.Different "it" animals have gone in and out of fashion and popular design over the years. The folksy owl and deer trend that was all over everything from bracelets to album covers last year is finally slowing down, while octopi, peacocks and safari chic are picking up. Cheesy metallic lion heads, chipper chimps and running zebras are getting increasingly sewn onto apparel, while elephant earrings and even giraffe jewelry are popular.

One of the strangest fads that I've picked up on is the "ironic animal shirt." Instead of highlighting a traditionally more admired animal, say a graceful swan, a cute bunny or a fierce tiger, there seems to be a tongue in cheek trend where pigs, cows, hippos—even crabs are being screen-printed onto shirts. It makes a person wonder, how do you rock a crustacean? Is Holstein haute? Do women really want to wear a dress decorated with narwhals?

Of course, most of this trend stems from the hipster propensity of raising up anything remotely quirky and putting it on a T-shirt—anybody who's still carrying that "Vote for Pedro" torch, desist immediately.

Speaking of Napoleon Dynamite, '80s-tinged fantasy horses and unicorns are also popping up in women's clothing, and I've even seen some moonlight animal T-shirts around. Wolves heads against misty snow-capped mountains, peaceful moose surrounded by evergreens—basically, anything that could be a faded tattoo on one of Larry the Cable guy's relatives is the new cool anti-cool. Perhaps the popularity of these spirit animal shirts came from all those wacky retro sweatshirts that Bret wears on Flight of the Concords? Thankfully, that one-mouse-screwing-another-mouse-caught-in-a-trap T-shirt he wore in the "New Fans" episode never started a trend of zoological necrophilia-adorned attire.

Finally, it's that time of year again, so I shouldn't neglect that whole subgenre of animal prints that rear their ugly heads every holiday season. Ah, the Christmas sweater, when caribou-, penguin- and polar-bear-adorned knits straddle the "I've given up" women's section of department stores. Though the Christmas sweater's popularity is less ingrained in California, in the bowels of Minnesota those things aren't just for the weather, they're a cultural uniform. Still, no matter how far your sarcastically cool factor stretches, anybody wearing one of these yuletide concoctions will end up looking just as uncomfortable as the reindeer-jumper-clad Colin Firth in Bridget Jones. Just say no.

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