Senior Shirt Shut Down

An+In-N-Out-inspired+logo+for+the+2019-2020+senior+t-shirt

The first-choice logo for the senior t-shirts was designed by Ciara Ruiz-Earle.

Angie Leung, Ariel Cooper, and Zoey Towner

The initial senior t-shirt selected by student council representatives in late October was denied by the Presentation administration on the basis that it was a copyright infringement and “innuendo.” As a result, a white tee featuring a “Thank You, Enjoy”-inspired design with the word “seniors” written in red capital letters, was chosen by student council as the senior t-shirt. 

Seniors, PHS Class of 2020 on the senior t-shirt
Student council members chose a white tee featuring a “Thank You, Enjoy”-inspired design with the word “seniors” written in red capital letters, as the second choice senior t-shirt.

Confusion among student council and seniors shortly followed the administration’s reasoning as word spread to the senior class from members of student council. 

According to Senior Homeroom Representative Isabel Munoz, the first shirt, an In-N-Out-inspired design, received one additional vote during the student council meeting on Nov. 4. 

Senior Class Moderator Angelena Paxton first sent a draft design of the In-N-Out-inspired logo to the printer to obtain a price quote, and then the same design to Vice Principal of Student Activities Timothy Case for approval. After reviewing the design, Case and the administration then raised concerns about a trademark violation and innuendo and deferred the shirt’s approval. 

Paxton said, “As moderator of this class since sophomore year, I had never been through the senior t-shirt process before. I sent the initial design to Mr. Case and was cautioned to wait until admin had a chance to discuss the design.” 

Case stated in an email to The Voice, “We felt it was problematic use of a trademarked design and potentially included innuendo, intended or not.” 

Senior Ciara Ruiz-Earle, the designer of both the In-N-Out and “Thank You, Enjoy”-inspired t-shirt designs, along with other members of student council, received a notice from the administration indirectly through Paxton that the shirt had not been approved. 

The order forms for the second-choice senior t-shirt design went out on Nov. 8. 

The senior t-shirt options were not sent to the Class of 2020 prior to the official decision as student council aimed to prevent dissatisfaction, taking into consideration that the senior classes in the past expressed discontent over the selections. 

After hearing about the disapproval of the In-N-Out design, there was widespread backlash from the senior class. 

“The dissension that I heard was much later. When I initially spoke to student council, there was a bit of disappointment, but everyone seemed fine moving forward with the second choice design, which only lost by one vote. A couple of student council members called the design ‘cute’ because it was like a thank you to Pres for four years,” Paxton said. 

Ruiz-Earle claimed that the administration’s reasoning was invalid, given that past senior t-shirts had utilized other logos, such as the use of the clothing brand Patagonia and the popular television show “Friends,” for example. 

“There was some mention about it potentially being copyrighted; however I don’t know how that would have worked because we’ve done Supreme. We’ve done Patagonia. We’ve done a ton of logos before,” Ruiz-Earle said. 

Case explained that for these past designs, either trademark permission was granted, or the design did not use the trademark in which there would be confusion between the original trademark and design on the shirt. 

Clarifying the issue with the In-N-Out shirt, Case stated, “While the use of trademarks for parody is not prohibited, liability for harmful or damaging parody is a concern. The combination of the use of the trademark logo and the business name was our concern.” 

While the original t-shirt design utilized the iconic In-N-Out yellow arrow and red block lettering, the design did not include the brand’s name, which led Ruiz-Earle to believe the design should have been approved. 

Case clarified in a follow-up interview that perhaps without the symbol “R,” representing a registered trademark, and a quote attached to the back of the shirt design saying “In-N-Out in 4 years,” there would have been a higher chance of approval. 

Paxton also noted that the precedent set by other schools led student council members to believe that the design would be approved.  

“Although the student designs received had copyright issues, including several ‘Avengers,’ ‘Marvel’ and ‘Thrasher’ others, the students planned to move forward as another local school had a similar In-N-Out design last year,” Paxton said. 

Despite the original controversy sparked, some seniors are happy to participate in the senior t-shirt tradition.

Senior Elizabeth Baker said, “I like the shirt, but I would have preferred the other style. I wish the rest of the senior class was consulted on the design before finalizing it. I’m glad we have a shirt though; it’s a nice way to bring the class together.”