The Power of a Baby Tee

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PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF GETTY, INSTAGRAM.COM/@barbieferreira

Succinct. Stylish. Easily accessible. This pop-culture-famous garment makes a special kind of statement.

In 2002, Britney Spears hit the streets of London with a Starbucks in her hand, pigtails in her hair and an important message printed on an itty-bitty baby tee: Dump Him. With this, fashion history was made.

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On the heels of a messy split from Justin Timberlake, the pop star’s decision to don such a pointed statement on a highly documented outing was iconic, slightly petty, and a work of literary genius. You see, before the world had Instagram Stories, TikTok confessionals, and Notes app declarations, we had graphic baby tees.

The format of the garment is pretty straightforward: typically cropped in length, often snugly fitted, and always featuring a buzzy slogan of sorts. Within this framework lies a special kind of sartorial statement that played a pivotal role in Y2K fashion. Historically, the baby tee has been adopted by public-facing young women — like Britney Spears — who were subjects of tabloid gossip and perpetual paparazzi attention. While coming of age in the spotlight, these stars were unfairly positioned as vapid bimbos. Through cheeky one-liner sartorial zingers, they nodded at their reductive reputations by leaning into them. Think Paris Hilton wearing a “Don’t Be Jealous” top. Or Drew Barrymore going out in a shirt that says, “My Boyfriend Is Out Of Town.” It’s bold, irreverent, and most importantly, main character energy.

Photography by Getty Images

Back in the aughts, Britney Spears in particular was always at the centre of salacious public speculation. So naturally, she had a penchant for tops with cheeky retorts. Amid invasive assumptions about her virginity, she wore a shirt that said, “I’m A Virgin. (This Is An Old T-Shirt.)”. While getting body shamed during her pregnancy, she went out in a tank that read, “I have the Golden Ticket,” with an arrow pointing to her baby bump. Lives were changed!

The significance of the baby tee — in all its minced-worded silliness — is that it makes you think. Like a personalized billboard, it’s blunt, to the point, and meant to be seen. Emblazoned with a quippy catchphrase, a nonsensical logo or a snide remark (à la Britney), it takes gall to wear one. Perhaps that’s why they always look good. In 1995, Naomi Campbell wore a chic baby tee to a fashion forward red carpet. In 2004, Anne Hathaway let the world know she was “Fed Up” through a deliciously random FedEx pun. Last winter, Hailey Bieber dipped her toe into baby tee discourse with a viral self-deprecating “Nepo Baby” shirt.

Photography by Getty Images

It’s worth acknowledging that this style — like with any look that relies on exposed skin — has been predominately praised on thin people. But the assertive essence of the baby tee transcends body shape. And in 2023, baby tees are not just for sample-size stars. They’re for anyone with a message to send or a penchant for causing double-take confusion. Got something to say? Do as Britney Spears would do, and wear it on your baby tee.

From snappy taglines to jazzed-up logos, below are the best baby tees on the market right now.

The Unbothered Baby Tee


The first step in selecting this top is assuming that everyone wants to make plans with you. That takes a certain level of confidence that we should all strive to acquire! With a lightweight fabric and an intentionally aloof message, this Superdown piece captures the essence of the Y2K fashion baby tee. Throw it on for a hot summer day and pretend you’re being papped for the full early aughts experience.

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The Sustainable Baby Tee


Looking for a way to honour Mother Earth? This T-shirt’s got you. Launched in honour of Earth Month back in April, the Reformation top is made of eco-friendly stretch rib fabric while keeping the baby tee quippy energy alive. Best of all? Fifty per cent of proceeds are donated to Accelerating Circularity, a nonprofit that catalyzes circular supply chains and business models.

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The High-Fashion Baby Tee


Gen-Z favourite label Heaven by Marc Jacobs knows is skilled at tapping into returning trends from the ’90s and 2000s. Naturally, its take on the 2023 baby tee is nostalgic, fresh and perfect when paired with either baggy cargo pants or a feminine mini-skirt. This logo-adorned garment features the brand’s double-headed bear emblem and a stylized “Heaven” print.

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The Self-Assured Baby Tee


As the saying (sort of) goes, you are what you wear. And sometimes, you just have to put on a shirt that makes you feel better. For the days when you’re not feeling so sure of yourself, what better choice than this “Genius At Work” tee by designer Danielle Guizio? If it looks like it could have come from Paris Hilton’s closet circa 2004, it’s an immediate yes.

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The Britney Spears Dupe Baby Tee


Verbally dolling out unsolicited relationship advice? Kind of annoying. Wearing said advice on your shirt? Inexplicably, a great choice! In honour of Y2K-era Britney Spears herself, this “Dump Him” replica is both a beloved pop culture reference and perhaps a wake-up call for unsuspecting passersby.

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The Minimalist Baby Tee


In an era of quiet luxury and increasingly subtle outfits, perhaps a grabby graphic isn’t your style. This clean baby tee by Canadian brand Kotn has the beloved silhouette of the noughties garment with a refined 2023 appeal. Inspired by ’90s fashion, the wardrobe staple is decidedly void of logos. And with low-key lifestyles becoming their own kind of trend, that’s a statement in and of itself.

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