The Philadelphia Papal Visit T-Shirt Roundup

It was like the Wildwood boardwalk in Philadelphia this weekend. From the sacred to the profane, here’s a selection of the best Philly pope shirts.

The Pope’s visit to Philadelphia made this city a lot more like Wildwood, New Jersey.

This was, most certainly, not what I (or anyone) could have imagined when Philadelphia was picked as the host for the World Meeting of Families back in 2012. But Pope Benedict XVI resigned, Pope Francis was elected, and suddenly millions wanted to come to Philadelphia for a chance at spotting the ultra-popular pope.

And Philadelphia’s t-shirt hustlers were out in full force. Suddenly the streets of Philadelphia were like the boardwalk in August. Only instead of cheesy sayings and senior week shirts, Philadelphians were buying shirts emblazoned with the message of the holy father.

[Wildwood boardwalk t-shirt columns: 2012 | 2013 (’13 Update) | 2014 | 2015 (’15 Update)]

Since 2012, I’ve written an annual column chronicling the latest in proper attire on the Wildwood boardwalk. Sometimes, I even stretch it out into an “update” column later in the summer, giving myself a nice excuse to go to Wildwood for the night. And now I’ve stretched it into one about the papal visit. Enjoy!

As usual, we can separate the shirts into categories, with some individual shirts getting special attention.

The Most Common One, Which Quoted Bob Dylan

By far the most common t-shirt — and a bargain, at $10 — was the above one, which is very clearly made in the same design as the crappy bootleg t-shirts sold outside concerts. They’re keeping the spirit of Pen & Pixel alive by cramming everything possible into one scene, only with less bling.

For some reason this particular one quotes Bob Dylan. Francis is seen as at least emphasizing a different message than previous popes, but why Dylan?? Sadly, no vendor I spoke to could explain it.

POPE (as in LOVE)

These were probably the second most-common. Yes, Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture — despite having many copies around the globe — has come to represent Philadelphia more than anything else, it seems. Okay, it helps that POPE has the same number of letters and the pope preaches a message of love.

Rocky/Art Museum

Philadelphia? Also well known for Rocky and our gorgeous Art Museum (and its steps), which also happened to be the place Pope Francis was speaking at.

Special shout outs to the two Rocky ones, which are legitimately well-designed for off-brand pope swag: The dark one is from Shibe Vintage Sports on 13th Street, while the colorful one was being sold outside Primp and Play on 10th by Pope Is Dope.

Kind of the same as the Philadelphia magazine cover

Yes, one vendor was selling a shirt with Barack Obama HOPE-style artwork featuring Pope Francis, which we’re also selling over at JesuitSwag (as well as a poster version on our site). Hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Philly sports teams

The “Phrancis” jobs were one-offs, that the seller (pictured) and his friends came up with and decided to sell the night before. Quite a few vendors had the POPE FRANCIS-themed Eagles logo, which was a little more of a stretch — but not bad considering the Birds also had a game on Sunday. The Pope-as-Tug McGraw one is from Cheesesteak Tees on South Street; another pope shirt was in the style of a Phillies shirsey:

There were also several versions of the Pope Francis/Eagles jersey mashup.

Not even the pope can help the Phillies this year, but the Eagles jumped out to a 24-0 lead and held on to beat the Jets yesterday. Perhaps he gave us a little extra blessing.


Many shirts also referenced cheesesteaks. The Pat’s/Geno’s “Who am I to judge?” one is not only topical, but hilarious. The people at Pope Is Dope Philly outdid themselves.

Cheesesteaks weren’t the only food represented, though.

Simply wonderful. In high school I actually tried to get them to bless the pretzels at the mass held during morning break. I was unsuccessful.

The Winners

This is the third time a Pope Is Dope 2015 shirt appeared on this list. “Fresh Pope” is both clever and well-drawn.

Meanwhile, the Notorious J.O.Y. shirt says “I love it when you call me Big Papa” on the back, and features Pope Francis in a Biggie crown. It was available in the vendor area of the World Meeting.

I actually wore this one around on Saturday, and received several compliments from t-shirt vendors themselves.

And, down in South Philly, Awesome Dudes Printing did a “pope-up” shop with some over-the-top satirical t-shirts. “I just Poped my pants” is in the true spirit of the visit, I believe. And of boardwalk t-shirts. Which reminds me…

Pope shirts down the shore

It was Irish Weekend in Wildwood and Sea Isle City. Yes, La Costa in Sea Isle had its own pope t-shirt. What a glorious weekend for cheesy t-shirts everywhere. Thanks, Pope Francis.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.