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T-shirt - Anarchy in the UK

Anarchy in the UK

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1978 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Reid, Jamie, born 1947 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Printed cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 106, case 5B, shelf 15

Designed by Jamie Reid in his then trademark style, the newsprint adorning this t-shirt reflects two sides of the Sex Pistols story. On one hand, in continuing with the 'ransom note'-style designs which had now become part of the defining imagery of the Sex Pistols and the Punk era, the t-shirt seems to warrant the message that despite everything that had happened to them by 1978, the Sex Pistols as a brand would carry on regardless.

The newsprint itself, however, tells the real story, revealing the extent to which the Sex Pistols torrid existence had degenerated. The headlines display the accusations against Sid Vicious, the bass player of the band, of murdering his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. The photographs of Ronnie Biggs, who had famously escaped from Wandsworth prison after being convicted for involvement with the £2.6 million 'Great Train Robbery' of 1963, chronicles the band's meeting with him in Brazil. He performed on two tracks with the band recorded following their last live performance; these were included on the soundtrack of the film The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. By this point, Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols, had left the band, due to disagreements with their manager, Malcolm McLaren, and disgust with Vicious. The rest of the band would carry-on, briefly, recording several songs with different singers.

This is where the story that the t-shirt tells ends; Vicious's death from a heroin overdose in February 1979 resulted in the termination of the group in its 1970s incarnation.

Physical description

Yellow t-shirt with collage in black print of newspaper articles, including headlines about Sid Vicious's murder charge, Johnny Rotten leaving the band, flyers for gigs at the 100 Club, pictures of the Sex Pistols and Ronnie Biggs, the 'God Save the Queen' defacement, the 'Anarchy in the U.K. Tour' Union Jack flag, and quotations from newspapers. Printed in red is a nameplate for 'The Sun' newspaper.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (possibly, made)


ca. 1978 (made)


Reid, Jamie, born 1947 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Printed cotton

Marks and inscriptions

From top-left to right

Don't look over your / shoulder, but the Sex / Pistols are coming

THE / Sun / Thursday January 19, 1978 6p TODAY'S TV: PAGES 12 and 13

ANOTHER SUN EXCLUSIVE / SEX PISTOLS SENSATION / Punk band splits up as Rotten walks out / [Further text illegible]

London Friday / October 13 1978 / Price Ten pence / Evening / STANDARD / CITY / PRICES / Sex / Pistol / on / murder / charge / UNDER ARREST Sid Vicious is led away to jail [further text illegible] / SID VICIOUS / 'KNIFES GIRL / TO DEATH'



'We're / the only / honest / band that's / hit this / planet in / about two / thousand / million / years'

SEX PIST / 100 CLU / TUESDAY'S IN M / 11, 18 & 25 / 100 OXFORD S [partially obscured]

TUES 15th / 100 CLUB / 100 OXFORD ST, W1 / sartorial / correctness / Sex Pistols / and a CAST (PLAStER) / 7.30 till LAtE. bars


ANARCHY IN THE U.K. / TOur / SeX PISTOLS / "I go home once a week to have / dinner with my mother." / Sid Vicious

Sex Pistols banned

'The Pistols had to end with a / bang if they really meant it, man'


Height: 70 cm, Width: 65.5 cm

Descriptive line

Anarchy in the UK Sex Pistols Tour T-shirt, designed by Jamie Reid

Labels and date

Sex Pistols T-shirt
About 1978

The sensation surrounding the Sex Pistols peaked in 1978-9 following the arrest and subsequent death of Sid Vicious. The band treated its demise in the same wry, tongue-in-cheek style as its rise to fame. The T-shirt reads, 'The Pistols had to end with a bang if they really meant it, man'. [52 words]

Screenprint on cotton
Designed by Jamie Reid (born 1947)

Given by Jamie Reid
Museum no. S.793-1990 [March 2009]


Cotton; Ink


Screen printing

Subjects depicted

Punk culture


Entertainment & Leisure; Fashion


Theatre and Performance Collection

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