This week marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Tiananmen Square protests that ended in carnage on June 4. An unknown number of Chinese students were killed by the People’s Liberation Army. Amid the slaughter, an unidentified hero, later dubbed Tank Man, emerged. Clutching two shopping bags that made him resemble the scales of justice, Tank Man blocked a line of T59 tanks by stubbornly standing in front of it, even briefly boarding the front tank, before two blue-shirted goons whisked him away. Despite vanishing from the scene, Tank Man soon became an icon. Time magazine ranked the shot of him, taken by photojournalist Jeff Widener, as one of the 100 most influential photos of all time. Just like the Che Guevara portrait, Tank Man has grown pervasive in fashion and is paraded across a range of T-shirts. “One person can make all the difference,” says the slogan emblazoned on one created by San Jose, California-based Revolutionary Threads. A less philosophical, more arty version comes hand-airbrushed with stencils via eBay merchant Nietoair. Then there is the minimal version, from Minnesota-based Liberty Maniacs, which was founded in 2003 by designer Dan McCall. Other options include a rainbow take from the mysterious Wolfs; another tagged Disobey from punky, Asia-tinged Rebellion 10; a highly stylised one from No Gods No Masters; and a shadow-tinted one from Asplenia Studios, the business persona of artist Jeff Sorley. Titled Resisting Tyrannical Government, Sorley’s design puts four giant Tank Man figures in front of a single tiny tank. “The image itself is such an iconic representation of both the hope and the futility of resistance that it, obviously, is going to show up in a lot of places. I had thought of doing a take on it where the Tank Man was huge and the tanks themselves were small for a long time, but kind of put it on the back burner. It wasn’t until I met friends from China that I revisited the idea. “They were all either graduate students or new PhD graduates doing their post doctorates and all highly educated people, who didn’t know Tiananmen Square protests happened or, if they did, had been fed an extremely watered down version of the story by their government,” says a source from Asplenia. University of Technology, Sydney senior marketing lecturer Dr David Waller says that yet another Tank Man interpreter, UK-based Truth Shirts, is definitely trying to be controversial and to spark conversation or offence. “That is their strategy. They produce designs that are purposely controversial and offensive on many topics, particularly anti-US, anti multinationals, and anti-government. It’s for a niche market who are usually young and idealistic,” Waller says. He voices concern that wearers may fail to grasp the full implications of the images they wear, or the offence they cause, which could start arguments, or worse. Seemingly, someone has every hot topic covered, from the Gaza Strip to the #MeToo movement and Donald Trump – “Impeach 45”, says a punchy anti-Trump slogan displayed by a variety of vendors. Brexit is well represented, too. One poignant offering, from UK-based I Love Mel, just says: “It wasn't me.” You can also buy Keep Taiwan Free T-shirts to support Taiwanese human rights and boost Taiwan's international standing. Ditto Tibet. Even the Spratly Islands are covered, in inflammatory style by SWEAR!wear: a daring statement T-shirt line devised by an elusive returning Philippine resident from the US. Whether we will ever know the name of the man who became an emblem of resistance seems unlikely. But his iconic image of defiance looks set to endure.