“Keep Calm and Carry On” the poster orders, its message somewhat at odds with its presentation: white text set in imperious capitals in a distinctively British typeface against a background of panic-button red. You might be familiar with the slogan from the signature poster or from its many incarnations on T-shirts, mugs, tea towels and other products. It also appears on the cover of a recently published book of motivational quotes. Online store Remo first started selling the “Keep Calm” posters in Australia in 2007; since then, the slogan has become enormously popular here as well as in the US, the UK and, surprisingly enough, Germany.
When I was having my own poster framed just before Christmas, along with a second one I’d bought as a gift for my mother, the framer laughed and pointed to another two of the posters that he had just finished for another customer.
“What’s it all about?” he asked, and it was hard to find the right answer. The usual explanation for the popularity of the slogan – that it is a reassuring message for our troubled times – doesn’t quite seem to account for the strange mix of nostalgia, naivety and irony it projects.
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