What does your T-shirt say about YOU? Do you wear your brand on your sleeve? Or are you trying to attract some much-needed attention? Sara Nour talks to students to find out

Some wear them for style, some wear them to show off, some wear them for attention and others just find them amusing. Notes went on campus to find out what students feel about T-shirt trends, especially those that bear provocative messages.

Attention seeking
Everyone seemed to agree on one of the main reasons that people choose to wear provocative T-shirts.

It's a way of "grabbing the attention of others," said Aseel Chahin, a business student at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). "And students believe that it is a stylish way of doing so as it grabs attention indirectly ... at least most of the time."

T-shirts with messages "remind me of the students, who in the late 1960s and 1970s wore their hair long," said Professor John Bottoff of the AUS design department.

"They seek to say, 'I am...'; some say it through their actions and words, others through someone else's. I have found that many students find it difficult to create a "witty" saying so they buy it. Much like the rest of us buy a greeting card ... ."

AUS psychology professor Anatoliy Kharkhurin said: "There are many reasons to wear clothing with [provocative] messages. One reason could be a youngster's attempt to stand out, to become different from the rest of the group.

"In contrast to Eastern society in which the virtue of an individual is to be in balance with nature, to be compliant with the community, Western society emphasises the uniqueness of the individual. We tend to do everything to bring the environment out of the steady state.

"The provocative messages on the T-shirt produce a pleasant feeling of being different, being rebellious."

Showing off
However many people wear T-shirts just to show off a brand name. "Proving to people that you can afford prestigious brand names such as FCUK, is one reason why many people choose to wear eyecatching T-shirts," Chahin said. "I would never wear them since it has turned into a common trend and I would like to maintain my own unique style."

Noor Hamam, mass communication student, AUS, said: "If I buy Armani, I want everyone to know it's Armani, but I would never wear shirts that bear disrespectful writing."

Other students said that wearing bold T-shirts is a means of self-expression. It "may also reflect a message you want to convey to people," said AUS design management student Abir Al Haj.

"These T-shirts are cute as long as they're respectful to you and to whoever reads them. They could also be amusing when you're bored and someone passes by wearing it."

Kharkhurin said: "Many teenagers, rather unconsciously, wear clothing with a message to put some kind of a label, an identifier, that can be easily distinguished. We use it as a component of our psychological and social mask that reveals and at the same time hides our persona. Unfortunately, this is too superficial and doesn't do the job.

"Nevertheless, an attempt to stand out, to find oneself, even in such a primitive manner, deserves some appraisal or, at least, recognition. And definitely there is nothing harmful in young boys and girls wearing clothing with various messages."

Pranav Arya, mass communication student, AUS, finds T-shirts that bear messages more meaningful than normal shirts with brand names. "I like wearing T-shirts with a message because I find it is a great way to express yourself. Express yourself - that is what we should do in university," he said.

AUS international relations student Sidra Shahid said: "People many times wear provocative clothes as an avenue of self-expression."

No offensive T-shirts
Most students drew the line between T-shirts that were amusing and those that were obscene. "There are degrees of provocation," said Shahid. "Sometimes provocative clothing is simply attention grabbing, but it crosses the bounds when it is offensive and contains vulgar statements or obscene language."

Male students agreed that their main motive for wearing funny T-shirts is to gain the attention of girls. "When you wear a T-shirt with direct, attention-grabbing words it automatically gains the attention of those around you, especially girls," said economics student Marwan Ziad.

But whether the attention is positive or negative depends on what is written on the T-shirt. "It might reflect a small part of one's character but when the writing is offensive I find it degrading - whether a guy or a girl is wearing it," said AUS business student Amro Hijazi.

According to Omar Enan, a marketing student at the German University in Cairo, "It's a good way of attracting girls indirectly and without any of the humiliation guys often experience when trying to get a girl to notice them."

In contrast, girls were more likely to use provocative T-shirts as a source of self-esteem and self-expression. Menna Ragab, an advertising student at the Modern Science and Arts University in Cairo, said: "Wearing a T-shirt that has the word beautiful written on it will make me feel beautiful. I find it stylish when both girls and guys wear T-shirts with messages but of course it depends on the writing on the T-shirt."

"I believe T-shirts with messages to a great extent represent a person's personality," said Amira Al Helaly, another advertising student at the Modern Science and Arts University in Cairo.

"I tend to pick out shirts that somehow represent what I want to say out loud but can't, what I want to prove to people or what I want them to think of me."

The writer is a student of the American University of Sharjah