18 sci-fi graphic tees to unleash your inner space explorer

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Apr 26, 2018

Space travel and what lies in the great beyond has long been a point of sartorial inspiration. Paco Rabanne was one of the first designers to look to space-age fashion, incorporating plastic and metal into his 1966 collection, 12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials. Two years later, Rabanne designed the iconic costumes worn by Jane Fonda in cult film Barbarella, but cosmic attire doesn’t have to look like it's straight out of Judy Jetson's closet (though that would be fine too).

T-shirt weather is upon us, so we found a number of intergalactic-inspired designs for you, priced from affordable to out of this world.

Science-fiction movies such as the aforementioned Barbarella, the Alien series and Star Wars have all had an impact on the runway, which then trickles down to retailers. The Space Race and Roswell-esque conspiracy theories aren’t just confined to a bygone era. Everything old is new again as designers draw inspiration from art, politics and science outside of the current cycle.

Outer space imagery is often kitsch, particularly if it incorporates flying saucers or big-eyed aliens. Artist Keith Haring returned to UFOs time and time again; the latest Coach collection has used this image of an unsuspecting pooch (another Haring staple) as part of the celebration of his work.

And now for something really luxurious, a T-shirt from Gucci. It will set you back a month’s rent (and then some), but it is also incredibly enchanting. Step aside millennial pink; Gucci has a brighter shade by the name of “milkshake pink” and this ship, radiating gold, will bring the aliens to the yard. Plus, a rainbow sequin tractor beam from a flying saucer is exactly the kind of tee that makes me want to believe (that I could ever afford a Gucci sequin tee).

Kitsch doesn’t have to come with a price tag to make your jaw drop; Forever 21 and Target embrace the little gray and green man in a way that won’t empty your bank account. ModCloth combines aliens with another mythical creature fave: the unicorn. Take me to your leader, indeed. Meanwhile Urban Outfitters is ready to call you Cosmic.

​​​​​​Sticking with Urban Outfitters and dipping into pop culture sci-fi apparel, the movie might be called Solo, but Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian in his space cape has my heart. His cool af swag levels are more than apparent on this shirt. If you’re in the mood for original Lando, Billy Dee Williams, then Uniqlo’s "American Movies Back to the ‘80s" graphic tee collection has you set with this Empire Strikes Back throwback. There are also a couple of E.T. tees, ticking those Spielberg nostalgia boxes.  

Dreams of being an astronaut aren’t just limited to childhood or the height of the Space Race. Brands have recently been looking to outer space for inspiration, including Chanel’s Fall 2017 show at the Grand Palais in Paris, which featured ‘60s mod style dresses, silver boots and astronaut prints as well as an ambitious rocket launch. There is a distinctly retro vibe coming from these collections; real life political anxieties feel very mid-20th century, so why shouldn’t fashion.

Hope and optimism are intrinsically tied to space exploration, even when factoring Cold War politics and every alien invasion movie. A space shuttle launch tee from Future State at Urban Outfitters is one option for keeping those eyes skyward. At Topshop there is astronomy enthusiasm with an ‘80s twist, a Halley’s Comet vintage-inspired tee. A very decadent way to show a fondness for the moon (and if you have the cash), comes courtesy of Valentino. Are you ready to proclaim your “Moonlover” status?  

You don’t have to work at NASA to wear NASA apparel, and you also don’t have to scour the internet for NASA apparel. It is everywhere, from the official NASA store to Target. Most of these tees lean into some form of retro imagery—Urban Outfitters has not one, but two different space shuttle images to choose between. The logo itself is pretty ubiquitous, Urban Outfitters has a simple take on this. Alternatively, head to H&M for another affordable spin on this design. Or you can sparkle like the stars with this Tee & Cake number from Topshop.   

One NASA collection that is harder to get your hands on is by Coach. The limited-edition range was launched last year in honor of the “American dreamers and explorers who believe that anything is possible.” NASA is on trend in part because of this ethos, in part because nostalgia sells. Plus Women in STEM—including female astronauts—continue to make leaps and bounds, so it isn't surprising that fashion continues to get drawn into the orbit of space exploration.

Graphic tees are a good (and often affordable) way to unleash your inner galactic travel aspirations.