Americans love a good fight. But now they're literally wearing their animosity on their sleeves.
"Team Nick" and "Team Jessica," representing the divorce between former MTV "Newlyweds" Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, are the latest tabloid T-shirts from the L.A.-based boutique Kitson to be polling popular opinion in the world of celeb-mania.
"Everyone loves a good fight or battle. It's like football teams. You're either Harvard or you're Yale. You're either Nick or you're Jessica," said Kitson owner Fraser Ross, who revolutionized celeb beef to a Yankee-Red Sox level with his "Team Aniston" and "Team Jolie" T-shirts
amid the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston/Angelina Jolie love triangle.
"The Team Aniston and Team Jolie shirts were big," said Ross, whose store does a whopping $18 million in revenue annually. "In the beginning, the Aniston outsold the Jolie 25 to 1 because Jennifer Aniston gave people 10 years of laughter [on "Friends"] and people felt like they knew her."
Another popular match-up: "Team Heather" and "Team Denise," based on the feud between former best friends Heather Locklear and Denise Richards (Richards is reportedly dating Locklear's estranged husband Richie Sambora).
Aside from being a way to pledge your allegiance to a star, the tabloid shirts have also become a way to say something about your own character.
"These shirts are definitely a way of using celebrities to get attention for yourself," said Michelle Lee, editor of In Touch magazine.
"If you are wearing the Team Denise shirt, you are probably trying to say that you are a bad girl and can't stand the whole goody-two-shoes thing that goes along with [Locklear]. If you are wearing Team Aniston, you are trying to tell people that you are a good girl," Lee added.
The shirts are also reflective of how pervasive celebrity culture is in our society.
"Nobody talks about politics anymore. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are both doctors in their 60s and they know a ton about Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie," said Lee, who notes that celebrity break-ups, such as that of Pitt and Aniston, have become front-page news.
Even the celebrity targets themselves are embracing the shirts, perhaps as a way to keep the momentum of their fame going.
For instance, Star magazine reported that while shopping at Kitson in late May, a distraught Jessica Simpson stocked up on Team Jessica shirts after noticing that her pile was much higher than Nick’s.
And Simpson isn’t the only star supporting her side of the fashion feud.
"Paris bought a bunch of Team Paris shirts and and Nicole Richie's mom bought a bunch of Team Nicole [after the former best friends went their separate ways] and I'm sure Angelina Jolie has gotten the Team Jolie as a gift. Everyone is in on the game," said Ross, who won't reveal the juicy new feud he plans to cash in on in the weeks to come.
While the Kitson shirts are based on kitsch, other manufacturers are also using tabloid fodder to make some sort of a statement.
In response to Lindsay Lohan's startling weight loss, Café Press began selling everything from “Feed Lindsay” sweatshirts to “Feed Lindsay” camisoles.
Lest we forget the infamous “Free Winona” and “Free Martha” T-shirts that were designed in response to the Winona Ryder shoplifting case and the Martha Stewart stock-sale saga. There's also "Free Katie" for Katie Holmes, who some view as a captive in fiance Tom Cruise's strange world.
While Hollywood has become our country’s favorite soap opera, some people find the tabloid shirts tacky and pathetic.
“I read Us Weekly and In Touch and watch 'Access Hollywood' and 'Extra' but I would not wear one of those shirts,” said Hollywood gossip-lover Julie Bisceglia, 18, of Tenafly, N.J.
“I think they are kind of stupid. It’s like using someone else to get attention for yourself,” added Bisceglia, who has seen the Team shirts in numerous magazines.
But around the world, people beg to differ.
"We probably sell mostly to England … Japan is actually really focused on the Team Paris/Team Nicole shirts. Paris is like the Beatles over there," said Ross.
On the home front, the trend is also still growing. Recently, Brandon Davis, the oil heir buddy of Paris Hilton who made headlines for getting caught calling redhead Lindsay Lohan a “fire crotch,” made his debut at rehab wearing a black T-shirt reading “Team Fire Crotch.”
“Whenever anything with a celebrity happens, we are going to see it on a shirt,” said Lee. “Brandon Davis wore a 'Team Fire Crotch' shirt to rehab. That one’s going to definitely catch on. No pun intended.”