T-shirts…they’re back and they’re cool

7 Jul

But this shirt looks so new.

Remember when t-shirts were a novelty?  Your worn out t-shirt proved that you went to a concert, played on a team, attended that college (even if you didn’t graduate) or were loyal to a brand or institution.  At the very least you well knew someone who did or was…and all you got was a dumb t-shirt.  The point is that somehow you were connected to whatever it was to get the tee.  As a teen, my t-shirt wardrobe wasn’t huge because t-shirts didn’t fall into the category of “things my parents want to pay for”.  My favorite t-shirts went with me to college and were so soft and thin that they looked better suited to wiping grease off a wrench or stuffing a drainpipe.

At some point silk-screening technology, cheap Chinese manufacturing and the Internet came together in a poly/cotton three way that exploded into a tee-gasm that is still reeling with aftershocks.  I first noticed it’s infancy in the gas station, Mr. B.’s, which was just off campus from my college.  Next to the oscillating hotdog heating contraption, the pot of thick black coffee and a shelf of Dolly Madison pies (just typing the name makes my fingers feel diabetic) was a little rack of joke t-shirts.  All the captions sounded like something Dilbert would say if he was high…”A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work”, “S.S.D.D. – Same Shit, Different Day” or “Free Mustache Rides”.  On the other side of the t-shirts were primary colored foam trucker hats atop a turn-style of bumper stickers that said stuff like: “Don’t laugh, it’s paid for”, “My other car is a Porsche” or, my favorite: “Ex-wife in trunk”.  I’ve never had an ex-wife, but if I did, I’d keep her in my trunk, too.

I've been shot by a horse, I'm bleeding...t-shirt!

Next came an avalanche of just giving away t-shirts.  Of course, they were usually all polyester.  Gross, but free.  You’d go get your car washed; they’d give you a t-shirt.  Go to a fraternity mixer, leave with a commemorative party t-shirt (usually designed by one of the more creative brothers).  Open a savings account at the bank; check off a new t-shirt.  Ball parks even bought special t-shirt cannons to blast freebies into the crowd.  And my favorite t-shirt give-aways were from the bail bondsmen near all universities.  When you would go make bail for a friend who was sobering up in the drunk-tank figuring out how they were going to spin a D.U.I. to Mom and Dad, the bondsman would give you a consolation prize t-shirt for the accused.  If they were wearing said t-shirt the next time they were arrested (because let’s face it, that first D.U.I. is just a gateway arrest), the bond company would cover a cool $50 of that resulting bail ticket.

I know that my liver has been very, very naughty

When Big Daddy and I were strolling La Rambla in Barcelona last month, I pointed out that I had seen maybe three different Spanish kids in two days wearing Black Flag tour t-shirts circa 1986.  Black Flag was a SoCal hardcore punk band popular in the way back.  WTF?  Then Big Daddy said that Barcelona was the hippest city just based on all the t-shirts and that he was going to go on www.threadless.com when we got home and have one made that says, “My t-shirt is cooler than your t-shirt”.  And that’s when it hit me that I could just let go of all of my see through and holey t-shirts because I can just order new ones.  I don’t have to “ be there” to get it.  I don’t even need to be in the right year or even on the right continent.

Pretty much everything is destined for a re-issue, and that includes t-shirts.  “Vintage” t-shirts sales are thriving.  There are not too many things that can fall under “collector’s item” anymore.  Artwork is photographed and stored on disk, someone will download a concert to an mp3 for sharing within hours of the curtain falling, Disney re-releases everything and the Franklin Mint replicates their own replicas.  With mass production, ordering from home and FedEx, it’s not easy to buy something unique anymore.  With everyone having access to a new jersey sleeved Van Halen 1984 tour shirt with the stroke of a keyboard, the joke shirts are back.  But now they are intellectual and/or ironic.  Look out Americans, because right now they are huge in Europe.  Unlike other American exports like David Hasseloff and Jerry Lewis, these will make a successful comeback here at home.  You’re already seeing them on teenage hipsters and trust-fund deadbeats, but when your mother shows up to the family Labor Day party wearing this you’ll know I’m right…

Everything old is new again...even Grandma!

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