Before there was Destiny Child, there was TLC. At the time, they were the craziest, sexiest, and coolest. Though looking back, some of their fashion choices were pretty questionable by today’s standards. But now, one of the leftover mysteries of ’90s fashion has finally been solved: why TLC wore condoms pinned to their clothes. In an exclusive interview with Teen Vogue, the two living members of the group, Rozonda “Chili” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, explained that it was all just a spur of the moment decision.
Chili explained that she and T-Boz were waiting in the car to head to the studio one day and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez came out to meet them with a condom pinned on her. From then on, that became their thing. It sounds silly, but it was actually super important. It became a talking point in magazine interviews and MTV sit-downs, which meant that everyone was talking about safe sex. Usually talking about safe sex sounds like an after-school special (and then kids zone out), but when TLC did it, people listened.
TLC also wore condoms to empower women.
A lot of parents just didn’t understand and thought that the group was encouraging people to have sex, but they weren’t. (Not that there would have been anything wrong with that.)
T-Boz told Teen Vogue that they wanted to “empower young girls to have their own stash of condoms and not to leave it up to the guys.” She added, “We were making a fashion statement to make it easier to talk about sex.” There have also always been rumors that Chili’s abortion inspired the decision. Either way, the three women definitely understood the need to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and STIs.
They haven’t changed their message since, in 1992, they told the Los Angeles Times that it was a deliberate choice to make sure people were talking about safe sex, and they were especially concerned with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was sweeping the country at the time.
It was a small thing, but safe sex was a big deal to TLC. So much so they even wore condoms on their sunglasses just so women knew it was OK to say “condom” out loud.