What happened to all the Che shirts?

22 03 2012

To top off a remarkably unproductive afternoon, I decided to watch the 2008 film The Baader Meinhoff Complex. The timing was great, because I expect that we’ll be covering the film’s subject – West Germany’s Red Army Faction– next week in my European History class.

Anyway, I liked film well enough. It didn’t glamorize the lives of the its terrorist subjects, and instead showed the “revolutionaries” for what they really were: attractive, trigger-happy narcissists with delusions of grandeur.  If only the College Republicans were that interesting.

It was hard to think over the film’s relentless speechifying and machine gun fire, but there was one thing that jumped out at me for some reason: one of the RAF members was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, I think while robbing a bank or gunning down some unfortunate member of  bourgeois society.

This made me realize: I haven’t seen a Che shirt in ages. It seems like they used to be everywhere, or at least everywhere in the popular conception of misguided youthful rabble. Where in the hell did they go? It’s as though there’s a sort of Bermuda Triangle of leftist activist icons out there somewhere, full of missing Che shirts, John Lennon glasses, and “Free Tibet” bumper stickers ripped from well-worn early 90s Hondas.

I have seen ironic variations on the Che shirt on campus. The most recent had Neil Patrick Harris’ face on it in place of Comrade Ernesto’s. No, I couldn’t find a picture of it online. There’s also the “Che t-shirt” t-shirt. Wrap your proletarian mind around this one:

More meta than you can handle

There could be some deep significance behind the lack of Che apparel. Then again, perhaps it is simply the case that irony is fatal – even to an icon once as ubiquitous as Che Guevara.

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