The Weird History of Cannabis T-Shirts

Cannabis t-shirts give off a much different vibe than ten years ago.
Cannabis t-shirts give off a much different vibe than ten years ago. /

What's your favorite cannabis t-shirt and why?

Cannabis went through several decades of prohibition, during which consumers and operators were forced to keep their passion for the plant entirely under wraps. As a result, going “public” about your habit was the ultimate act of bravery, and wearing something like a cannabis t-shirt held an entirely different meaning.

Today, wearing cannabis apparel can signal your relation to the industry, the plant, or your dedication to destigmatization. No matter your reasoning, it isn’t anywhere near as controversial as it was in the 1900s – or even as recently as last decade.

The history of cannabis t-shirts is a complex and loaded one: a concept that has journeyed from an unabashed labeling of yourself as a “stoner” to a way to signal yourself as a wellness-oriented supporter of cannabis legalization.

The History of Cannabis T-Shirts and Apparel

Cannabis has a centuries-long history as a beneficial plant that has helped countless cultures overcome a large myriad of ailments. Unfortunately, the racist Reefer Madness scare of the early 20th century forced consumers and operators into the shadows, and it wasn’t until very recently that people beyond your average activist started getting brave enough to proudly label themselves as cannabis connoisseurs.

This evolution in itself has undergone years of scrutiny, as the first people to courageously speak aloud about their cannabis use were largely labeled “stoners” – a.k.a., weed addicts who would barely get off the couch for anything other than sating a bout of the munchies.

Regardless of the negative stigma that continued to surround the plant, this group forged on, leaning into the “stoner” label by creating pop culture content that playfully played into the stereotypes without giving up on delivering the ultimate message: weed has never been evil.

With this fearless foray into weed media came accompanying accessories, like “stoner” cannabis shirts and other apparel to further establish yourself as a cannabis consumer.

Why People Wore Cannabis Shirts During The Pre-Legal Era

Before cannabis began its legalization journey throughout the U.S., wearing a marijuana t-shirt was incredibly taboo – especially considering most of the designs were over-the-top, somewhat garish, and generally louder than your actual weed.

During this time (up until the early 2010s), you either abstained from weed entirely or were a constantly-wasted stoner, with very little room or understanding for in-between. As a result, anyone who chose to wear their love for weed on their person ran the risk of being polarizing, underestimated, and likely not taken seriously.

However, these fashion-forward souls were as brave as anyone operating in the legacy industry at the time. By choosing to wear marijuana shirts in the prohibition era, you told greater society you respectfully disagreed with their perspective, and maybe even changed the minds of a few people who came across you in public – or at least sparked some curiosity.

Why People Wear Cannabis Shirts Now

Today, wearing cannabis shirts or related apparel is considerably less controversial, but it continues to signify a person’s relation to the plant, and allows the wearer to establish a stance on cannabis legalization and destigmatization.

Of course, today’s cannabis merch wearers are more likely to be legal advocates, brand owners, or have some level of involvement in the legal industry, but consumers are less shy than ever before to (literally) wear their love for the plant on their sleeve.

While wearing cannabis apparel in the past was likely to label you as a stoner – nothing more, and nothing less – today, it can take on several various layers of meaning. People are more likely to look at cannabis apparel and think: plant advocacy or overall wellness, rather than just the “laziest” subsector of counterculturalism.

However, this says less about the wearer than it does about the public view of cannabis apparel. While this might have always been the intended message for wearers of cannabis apparel’s past, the public wouldn’t have allowed for this nuance due to the long-lasting, far-reaching, radical stigma placed on the plant.

But just as today’s views of cannabis have softened and expanded to include all aspects of the plant’s benefits, so have today’s views on consumers – especially those who are unabashed about letting their weed-friendly freak flag fly.

Best Cannabis T-Shirt and Apparel Brands to Shop

Ten years ago, few fashion brands would have been brave enough to put a cannabis leaf on their clothing. Today, it’s quite common – and trendier than ever before.

Here are some of the best cannabis t-shirt and apparel brands to check out:

  • Ken Ahbus
    Ken Ahbus (get it?) is a cannabis lifestyle brand designed for the modern stoner: fusing comedy and cannabis in a sleek and classic manner. Their subtle-yet-loud designs are minimalist, comfortable, and transformative, in keeping with the direction fashion is moving in to keep up with today’s trends.
  • HUF
    HUF is one of the most classic stoner brands in the world, and while the brand has always been quietly understood as a weed-forward company, their 420 collection leaves no intention to the imagination.

    Inspired by the classic ’90s stoner cannabis t-shirts that a very special group of people had enough stones to wear back in the day, the collection pays homage to the old guard of cannabis consumption while appealing to the modern consumer.
  • Bored Teenager
    Conceived by fashion designer and Workaholics star Blake Anderson, Bored Teenager accomplishes exactly what the comedic show aimed to do: bring cannabis into the mainstream in an honest way.

    His designs, which feature bright, psychedelic-inspired colors and mood-boosting patterns, are reminiscent of old-school cannabis fashion, and emblematic of the sort of thing we all would have drawn up as…well, bored teenagers.
  • Sugarhigh Lovestoned
    With the clever tagline of “Thank you for pot smoking,” Sugarhigh Lovestoned is a music-and-weed inspired brand that is so effortlessly hip, it’s almost painful to look at.

    Featured in the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Allure, and Refinery29, Sugarhigh Lovestoned has definitely reaped success in bringing cannabis fashion into the mainstream, doing a ton of heavy-lifting in regards to destigmatization through branding.
  • Sundae School
    Now a cannabis brand that offers a variety of infused products, Sundae School actually began as a weed lifestyle apparel company. Born in Seoul and raised in California, the brand offers small-batch, high-quality pieces – much like their increasingly-iconic flower.

    This brand is for the sophisticated fashionista-stoner who has no qualms with wearing their passion for the plant on their body – as long as it looks clean, chic, and a little hyphy.

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