A T-Shirt is what you wear when you don’t want to look like The Man — particularly a black T-shirt or a T-shirt that’s old and threadbare — and if you’re a hacker, that’s one of your main objectives. This is true whether you’re working on the Linux kernel or busting into somebody’s top secret server. “It’s a way for them to signal that they don’t care about fashion status in the way mainstream society does,” says Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who spent three years living with software hackers and documented the experience in a book called Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. “Of course, it then becomes its own form of fashion and status.”

Some hacker T-shirts are just T-Shirts, while others — so many others — are a way of proving your hacker credentials, a means of communicating with other hackers. This includes shirts from conferences and other meetups you’ve attended over the years, but it also includes shirts that deliver an added message. Sometimes, this message is built on humor — another indelible part of hacker culture. Sometimes, it carries at least the semblance of disgust, as it takes a swipe at someone like Bill Gates or Dick Cheney. And sometimes, it’s a mixture of the two.

Head on over to Wired Enterprise to see a gallery of our favorite nerdy hacker t-shirts!

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