‘1973’ Merch: How a Year Became Shorthand for Abortion Rights


“He once said to me: ‘There are two kinds of advertising. You can say “Libby’s Libby’s Libby’s” on the label,’” referring to the commercials from the ’70s that repeated the brand’s name over and over and over. “‘Or you could do something that’s more thought-provoking and kind of subtle.’”

Over the years, interest in 1973 shirts has been “slow and steady,” said Ms. Bell, who would sell the gear at events like Tina Brown’s Women in the World conference. But each new crisis in the abortion rights movement would bring a jump in sales. (Celebrities like Amy Schumer and Busy Philipps already wore 1973 goods before the latest Roe news.)

On Social Goods, which is the exclusive retailer of the Prinkshop designs, 1973 sales began steadily climbing last fall, when Texas banned most abortions. With focus back on the Supreme Court, there has also been some renewed interest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg merch, despite the hint of backlash to the justice’s feminist icon status that came after her death. Lisa Sokolov, who founded Social Goods with her sister Kate, said recently that an “RBG” notepad and gavel gift set sold out on the site, along with some cards and pins.

The 1973 design is still relatively unknown, though it has spawned similar versions on sites like Zazzle and Etsy. It can have the same clandestine effect as a secret code; when wearing it, Ms. Bell said, “someone will give a thumbs up or a smile, because they know what it is. Or someone will say, ‘Is that the year you were born?’”

There is something restrained about it, too; less controversial or optimistic than pussy hats or “The Future Is Female” shirts, which were both accused of being exclusionary, and were eventually ridiculed. It’s also less confrontational than another Prinkshop tee supporting abortion access currently sold on Social Goods, which reads: “You are not the boss of V.” (The “V” serves as a kind of downward arrow.)

But Kate Sokolov defended the more subtle approach: “When you say what it is and why you’re wearing it, it packs a huge punch,” she said. “It starts conversations.”



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