The Story Behind Ashley Olsen’s “High Wasted” Shirt

Ashley in Yeezy sneakers has us wondering: is Kanye borrowing from Ashley’s look?

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Aug 29 2018, 1:15pm

Ashley Olsen appeared in Los Angeles on Tuesday in forest green track pants, Yeezy sneakers, an oversized orange and yellow plaid shirt, and a big T-shirt with a photo of a woman smoking a pipe with the lead singer of the hardcore punk band Bad Brains under the text, “HIGH WASTED”!!! This is particularly strong look, like pure Kurt Cobain energy with the proportion play of Kanye West—which leads me to wonder: is Ashley borrowing from Kanye, or is Kanye borrowing from Ashley? And because it would take me four Ted Talks and a huge wall covered in yarn to answer that question: what the heck is on Ashley’s T-shirt?

For answers, I went to the T-shirt Mountain and sought the sage wisdom of the T-shirt Oracle—by which I mean, I texted Chris Black. Per Black, the shirt is the work of creative director Phil Chang, who “made it a while back… Shirt is fire, though.” The image became notorious in 2012 after David Hill tweeted the photograph, claiming that it was “brooke sheilds [sic] smoking pot with h.r.,” aka Human Rights, the lead singer of Bad Brains. (“#what,” Hill added as a sort of Twitter denouement. And to be fair, what was the Calvin Klein princess of American prep doing smoking weed with the coolest punk singer in history?)

The image was picked up by numerous tabloids, including the crown jewel of celebrity slime, Radar, at which point Shields’s publicist denied that the actress (and Princeton graduate, okay???) was the woman in the photograph. Shields was famously friends with every cool person in the world—this was the ’80s, after all, when everyone was living in a Tina Brown simulation—but H.R. seems a little outside Shields’s circle. More pragmatically, this woman’s hair simply doesn’t meet the grooming standards of the pristinely glossy Shields.

Eventually, the image made it to Chang’s T-shirt, where he printed the image under the words “HIGH WASTED” (clever!) and “a lifestyle and fashion magazine for stoner girls.” (It’s unclear whether this was a real magazine; but hey, that’s not even Brooke Shields!) He was selling it as late as winter 2017.

But then, how did the shirt come to Ashley? We have reached out to Chang for comment, because there’s no news like T-shirt news, and will update if we receive a response. But as Chang wrote on Instagram, “Hold on who gave Ashley their High Wasted tee. Should I do another small run of these”—suggesting he believes that Ashley didn’t buy the shirt herself. You can’t exactly roll into Barneys and buy the T-shirts of the creative class, as we’ve learned from Chris Black—you have to be plugged in and logged on. You have to know a guy who follows a guy on Instagram, which is to say that you are so cool that you’re kind of a loser. But it’s possible that, like Mrs. Dalloway and her flowers, Ashley simply bought the shirt herself. She is the coolest woman in the world! She and Mary-Kate wore drugstore flip-flops in a big photo shoot in the Wall Street Journal!

And while she and her sister are known for a sleek, monochrome style, Ashley in fact seems to have an impressive vintage T-shirt collection. In 2016, she was photographed by the Daily Mail wearing a Jerry Garcia shirt (before all the twenty-something menswear nerds were pretending they’ve been Deadheads for decades), as well as a Bob Dylan shirt just a few days later. She paired both with giant gauzy plaid shirts—which again, establishes a timeline that suggests Ashley is a Kanye source.

And let us never forget that The Row was launched as a part of the girls’ search for the perfect T-shirt. “It all started with us talking with our friends about the T-shirt,” Mary-Kate told Interview in 2011, “just putting it on bodies, on anyone from 12 to 60, and different sizes.” Ashley Olsen: T-shirt deity; Kanye whisperer.

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that Ashley was wearing Nikes. In fact, she is wearing Yeezys. More Kanye juice!