Everyone’s got a story about a character from ‘Batman’. The Caped Crusader has become such a cultural icon that even memes about him are mainstream. The most popular of these are the best-selling ‘What’s the best Batman meme?’ and ‘Is this the one?’ shirts. Today, we’re going to answer the question that has captured the imagination and challenged the design aesthetic of many a memeber of the Millennial generation. Let’s get started.
The Evolution of a Meme
This week, we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane as we examine the evolution of two of the most popular ‘Batman’ memes. The first is a shirt design that first gained popularity in the early 2010s and has been a Halloween costume staple ever since. As we’ll see, the design has evolved over the years, but much of its aesthetic has stayed the same. Let’s take a look back at how these memes evolved.
The Early Years
Before we begin our trip down memory lane, it’s important to take a step back and examine how and why these memes came to be. The first ‘Batman’ themed shirts were created in the early 2010s by a Tumblr user named upplet. It was a riff on the classic Batman symbol – the bat – but used a more modern and simplified take on the character. The result was a fresh take on an age-old design and an instant meme.
Shortly after this, another user named wychosememe started the trend of cropping and color-swapping images of Batman from comics and television shows. This was another way of interpreting the design and making it their own. These early memes were a combination of the traditional and the trendy, using elements of both to great effect.
The Dark Knight
In 2011, a Tumblr user named sassylion created the meme that truly put ‘Batman’ on the map. This was the year that we were first introduced to Bane, one of the most popular villains in the Batman mythos. The villain’s mask, which is nearly identical to that of the Dark Knight, caused sassylion to crop up with their own take on Bane’s iconic attire. This was also the year that we saw the inception of the ‘Is this the one?’ meme.
The designer responsible for the original ‘Is this the one?’ shirt, Zara Hamilton, told us that they were inspired by the viral success of the ‘Bane’ meme and the growing trend of people wearing masks and transforming their identities. Using this as a jumping off point, they designed a whole line of Halloween costumes that year, including a black-and-white checkered mask that’s the ancestor of today’s ubiquitous Halloween mask pattern.
The designers of the original ‘Bane’ shirt weren’t content with just creating one amazing design. They wanted to make more so if you check out their other designs, you’ll see a clear pattern in their work. This is evident in the way they designed the logo for the Bane line – a more simplified and cleaner take on the classic look. This, of course, makes sense because Bane’s mask is essentially a stripped-down and clean take on Batman’s iconic design. It would have been odd for the designers of the original ‘Bane’ shirt to make absolutely no changes to an icon that became so popularized by him.
The Rise of the Dark Knight
In more recent years, the popularity of ‘Batman’ and its associated memes grew by leaps and bounds. In 2018, this trend continued as people grew fond of styling themselves after the Caped Crusader. One of the most prominent examples of this is the ‘Dark Knight’ meme, which saw a spike in popularity this year. This was partly thanks to a teaser trailer that dropped just before Halloween that year. But it also has to do with the fact that the Joker has been a major character in the Batman mythos for decades. So it only made sense that people would want to make a stylistic homage to the Clown Prince of Crime.
The Joker and Batman have been archenemies for as long as we’ve had comics. As fans of the character know, the two men have a complicated history. They’ve fought each other several times over the years, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that they even started to get along. But their professional rivalry continues to this day. It was, however, in the 1960s that the Joker started wearing his iconic outfit. Before then, he mostly wore bizarre and often crime-related costumes that drew inspiration from everything from film noir to Elizabethan era men’s wear. It would have been strange for the Joker to completely ignore his rivalry with Batman when designing Halloween costumes.
All Hallow’s Eve
Last but not least, we have ‘All Hallow’s Eve’. This is the name of a song that was written and performed by the legendary Johnny Cash. The song’s refrain is “Happy Hallow’s Eve”, but it was originally titled ‘Hallow’s Evil’. This song has been recorded by numerous artists, but it got its biggest hit when Cash recorded it in 1955. Since then, it’s become a holiday classic and is frequently covered on the classic rock radio stations to this day. Many people, especially those who lived through the ’80s, know the song and recognize the title when they hear it. Naturally, they want to show their love for the classic rock singer by dressing up like him for Halloween.
These days, you’ll see the Halloween costumes for ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ a lot. The song’s iconic orange and black attire is a Halloween costume staple. It was first performed in a Halloween movie, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that this song became associated with Halloween. When it did, it brought with it a strange mix of styles. People in the ’70s wore jumpsuits with animal prints and fringe in the style of the time, while some ’80s outfits resembled those of the character Gordon Gekko from the movie ‘Funny or Die’. But throughout the whole meme-evolutionary story, the song’s refrain has stayed the same. It’s always been “Happy Hallow’s Eve”, but it was “Hallow’s Eve” until fairly recently when it became “Happy Hallow’s Eve”. And now, it’s just “Hallow’s Eve”.
Although these days we see a lot of Halloween costumes inspired by ‘Batman’, it wasn’t always the case. When the original ‘Is this the one?’ shirt first hit the scene in 2011, it was in the middle of the Great Recession. It was a rough time for a lot of people, and those that were into fashion were especially affected. The shirt’s designer, Zara Hamilton, told us that they designed the shirt to be a “one-of-a-kind piece that would be worn once and discarded after the holiday”. This, of course, was a deliberate decision on their part. As a result, most of the early designs were either whimsical or satirical in nature. But these days, you’ll mostly see people wear the shirt to show their love for Batman, not to be ironic or sarcastic about the situation we were in back then. It’s just who we are nowadays. The era of the ‘cool’ Batman meme is over.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, where does this leave us? Well, it’s not exactly a secret that the original ‘Is this the one?’ shirt was never officially released to the public. Zara Hamilton explained that it was only given out to a select few in the know. But that’s all changed now. Since the inception of this blog post, Zara Hamilton has provided us with the keys to the Twitter account that her company uses to sell their products. So, if you want, you can go ahead and follow her on Twitter @zarahillcom to get updates about their company and to see more of their amazing designs.
It’s great to look back at how this all started. We can now see the incredible impact that these designs had on the fashion world. Not only did they popularize a design that’s become so iconic that it’s now considered a symbol of the Millennial generation, but they also led the way in redefining what a meme is. The world of fashion was changed forever with the emergence of these designs, and that’s something to be very grateful for.