Thursday, September 09, 2010

T-shirt philosophy



I’ll concede at the outset that I’m probably over-thinking this. And, like most things, the images and words you wear on your clothing are a matter of personal taste, which is a non-debatable issue.

Having said that, let’s talk about t-shirts, shall we?

I was cruising the men’s department at Dillard’s on Saturday because they had a big-ass Labor Day weekend sale with 50 percent off all of their already-discounted men’s clothing. It was almost like having Dillard’s Discount Store back in business here. The prices were great, but I couldn’t really justify buying anything, having a closet still jammed with the enormous wardrobe I bought three years ago when the discount store was blowing out Dillard’s merchandise for 10 cents on the dollar. Maria finally prevailed upon me to buy a shirt.

But I digress.

I noticed some racks of t-shirts with generic or fantasy product advertising on them. Like the “Support Your Local Motorcycle Shop -  Daytona Beach, Fla.” shirt with a generic motorcycle image.tshirtcigars

Assuming that a person wears a decorated t-shirt to say something to the world, what does this shirt tell the observer?

It tells me that the wearer wants the coolness cachet of motorcycling, but doesn’t know shit about bikes. A real motorcycle fan/rider would wear something more specific, referencing a particular brand, motorcycle shop/dealership or maybe a motorcycle event like a rally or a race. The shirt at Dillard’s comes off as something to be worn by the superficial and lame to impress the superficial and lame.

Ditto, the one advertising Big Koals Stogies. I suppose the wearer might hope people would think he’s a macho cigar smoker, but mostly – since there is no such brand - he would come off as a poser and a dope.

Maybe it’s just the idea of wearing something with what you think is a cool concept associated with it. It calls to mind the t-shirt an American spotted in Tokyo proclaiming “Surfing My Life!”

My preference is to wear only stuff that I (here’s that personal taste thing) feel has gravitas – substance, meaning, worth, importance, or else conveys a sense of irony or whimsy.

For instance, my t-shirt wardrobe is 99 percent BMW motorcycle-related, shirts from dealers across the country, rallies I’ve attended, or just stuff bearing the BMW logo. That’s because I love BMW motorcycles, to the tune of more than 300,000 BMW miles. I have a couple of Nikon shirts because I like and use Nikon cameras. I have a Breitling cap because I love my Breitling Chrono Avenger wristwatch. I’ll wear North Face and Columbia-marked clothing because I like the brands and think they have quality.

But I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything with the Old Navy name because I think their stuff is overpriced crap. Abercrombie and Hollister fall into the same category.

I guess it comes down to not wanting to advertise something I don’t like or believe in. And I reflexively expect everyone else to make that kind of conscious decision about the messages they send with their clothing choices. Silly me.

My friend Art Harris turned me onto Willis & Geiger clothing a few months before the brand went extinct. He bought a windproof sweater that had a nifty W&G patch on the left sleeve. He paid a seamstress to remove it because he refuses to wear anything that could be construed as advertising. I bought two of those sweaters – one for Maria and one for myself – and left the patch on both of them.

Sorry if you like Old Navy or Abercrombie or Hollister. Those t-shirts at Dillard’s just got me stirred up and pissed off.

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