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What is an RIP Shirt?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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An RIP shirt, with the letters the standard acronym for "Rest in Peace," is a shirt with the name, and perhaps pictures of a person who has died, often from violent crime. The trend of RIP shirts began in the 1990s, and is commonly associated with high crime urban areas. It is usually close friends or family members who will order an RIP shirt for a lost loved one, and will wear it in remembrance of that person.

Like donning mourning clothes, wearing the RIP shirt is a way of expressing grief, and reminding others that one is in the midst of grief. Most are plain tee shirts, and the designs are silk-screened by tee shirt screeners. Their order of shirts may be large or small, depending upon the popularity of the victim and the number of people who want to honor the deceased.

In one way, RIP shirts are a youthful, individualized message of remembrance and grieving, but in another, they are a deeply sad commentary on people who live in areas where violent crime is common. Urban areas with high murder rates are with each death trying to make others remember that these deaths are not simply statistics, but the death of a person. Some silk-screeners in high crime areas comment that the RIP shirt seems to be their most popular request. Most don’t make money from the creation of these, charging only for materials.

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In high crime areas there is an inevitable association between the RIP shirt and gang affiliation. Some in law enforcement are concerned that RIP shirts for victims of gang violence may further it by reminding people of deaths in their own gangs. Further, the “fame” of being on an RIP shirt, might seem like a noble death to a young person deeply immersed in gang life.

It would be a mistake to assume that the RIP shirt exclusively commemorates victims of gang violence. In areas with high murder rates, only some of the murders are gang-related, while others may have nothing to do with gangs. People may wear RIP shirts for parents, just as easily as parents wear them for children. The hope of family and friends in wearing an RIP shirt is that a person’s existence will be honored and not forgotten. It is a way of holding onto the dead and asserting that those who have died were loved and important.

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anon980172
Post 5

A practice in my country, which I find particularly depressing, is the posting of a cross and flowers next to the spot where someone was killed in a motorcar accident. Why keep reminding everyone of what happened? In such a case I would rather those people wore an RIP shirt to remind themselves of their loved one's death, instead of reminding the broader public of the death of someone they didn't even know.

letshearit
Post 4

When I was in high school one of the students in my class was hit by a car outside the school and killed. It really shocked the school and the city, and there was a lot of different events held to remember the student.

In our class the students made RIP ladies shirts in green and the men's RIP shirts in black to show our support for the family of the student. Green and black were his two favorite colors so it seemed like a good way to go about things.

I think that as teenagers RIP shirts were a good way to show our support to the family and also to raise money for funeral costs. Those who wore the RIP shirts collected donations that were given to the family.

KaBoom
Post 3

I can understand why law enforcement officials might be concerned about these shirts. Constant reminders about the deaths of your friends could definitely incite gang members to further violence.

However, I don't think these should be banned or anything like that. First of all, that would definitely infringe on freedom of speech. Second of all, some people who aren't affiliated with gangs probably wear these shirts. It doesn't seem fair to punish someone who just wants to mourn their loved one because gangs also wear RIP shirts.

SZapper
Post 2

I live in the suburbs, but even when I lived in the city I can't recall ever seeing a RIP t-shirt. However, I do remember back in the 90s when several famous rappers were shot, RIP t-shirts were made by large companies. I remember several of my classmates purchasing and wearing these commemorative tees. I believe the ones for Tupac were the most popular at my school.

I've noticed in the suburbs, a lot of people put memorial decals on the back window of their car. Usually it says the persons name, the dates of their birth and death, and a descriptive phrase like "loving father."

I'm not sure if decal printers charge for this or not. Either way, I suppose car decals are the suburban equivalent of the RIP shirt.

ceilingcat
Post 1

I think it's really nice that some silk-screeners don't charge for RIP shirts. I don't think it's exactly ethical to make money off of death (even though we have a huge funeral industry in this country.)

Plus, the people who are in mourning have probably already paid a large amount of money for the funeral and other expenses. They might not have much left, since these shirts are popular in high-crime areas, which are usually also low income.

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