T-shirts: Style meets substance

Methodshop.com. Flickr. June 22, 2012.

Methodshop.com. Flickr. June 22, 2012.

Even for those of us who grew up without the web, it may strain the imagination to remember life without it.  Prompts might include black vinyl bound photo albums full of shiny black and white photographs in a hall closet.  There may be a rotary telephone in the attic, although the landline cord has disappeared.  Stacks of vinyl records, though, are likely remembered, dusted, and cherished.  Popular music tends to accompany important events and fondly remembered relationships.  As its performers fade into an obscurity that eludes Beethoven and Mozart, reminiscing necessitates those LPs.

The t-shirt has retained a similar place in our affections.  Before Twitter, it was the only place that one could proclaim one’s identity, beliefs, values, politics, school loyalty, or favorite restaurant.  In much less than 140 characters, but with accompanying illustrations, you could become a walking billboard.  Of course, you had to supply your own animation.  That became relatively easy to accomplish as the wearing of underwear in public became socially acceptable.  In an earlier era, the formerly white and cotton men’s undergarment was only glimpsed at the necklines of men wearing their button-downs with the collar open.

Today, of course, men, women, and children wear t-shirts solo and in a great variety of hues.  Businesses that will assemble a t-shirt with your favored colors and slogans have been profitable for decades.  Such t-shirts are so ubiquitous and popular that people give them routinely and receive them gratefully.  For some, they constitute a treasured and unworn archive of achievement.  The road runner who has finished multiple marathons in several states memorializes his or her stamina, if not speed with a collection of race t-shirts.  The vacationer who has visited every American state brings home an illustrated, if not shiny t-shirt trophy from each one.

Will the popularity of Twitter and the burgeoning mobility and decreasing cost of web access bring about the demise of the t-shirt?  Twitter features that permit the attachment of photographs and video offer more sophisticated visual appeal.  There’s no need to squint at your neighbor’s disappearing back or cast sidelong glances at your co-worker’s torso, either.  Without world travel, your illustrated message can reach far beyond your own community, too.  Still, there’s no wrapping oneself in a soft, if colorful Twitter message.  Like blue jeans, t-shirts will become stylish, that is, created by fashion designers and illustrated by professional artists.  Their lines, fabrics, and colors will reflect where they are worn and the taste, not the politics of their wearers.  Which designer t-shirt will you wear to your next dinner party?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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