The Tao of the Tee

Posted by Mongo Friday, October 22, 2010

Ten days without an update.  I apologize peeps.   I’ve just been really busy.  Honest... I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.  I feel better now.   Anyway, I thought I’d take some time off from promoting [read: pimping] my designs and want to just talk about t-shirts.  

Besides getting into this kind of work to make extra cash, I do have a profound love of t-shirts.   It’s a form of expression, I guess.  When you wear a graphic tee, you pretty much put your thoughts and opinions out there without having to say anything.   But t-shirts are more than just expression to me.   It’s a way to relax.  T-shirts and jeans are a great dress code.   Let’s all just be comfortable and kick back.  A t-shirt is a statement all its own, regardless of what is printed on it.  It’s you saying, “Today, I’m not a CEO, or a doctor, lawyer, office worker, surgeon, or soldier.  Today, I’m just someone looking to be free and relaxed.”  I like that.  I like that a t-shirt can make you feel comfortable.  In that regard, a hoodie or sweatshirt can make you feel safe and snug.  It can make you feel warm and protected.  You can put the hood up and disappear.  Maybe t-shirts are my religion.  I pray at the altar of a poly-cotton blend.  HA!  

Let’s take a look back at my life with shirts.  When I was kid I would usually get hand me downs from my brother.   I remember going to school when I was ten and wearing concert shirts from Hall & Oates’ H2O tour.  LOL.  What did I know.  It was 1984 for love of Oates’ mustache.    My absolute favorite shirt was a long sleeve black and white baseball shirt with a simple graphic of an alligator holding a smoking shotgun and the words, “Save an alligator.  Shoot a preppie.”  I loved that shirt.  I doubt I could get over my neck these days.

However, my tastes changed, as most kids often do going through adolescence, and I went away from custom graphic tees and leaned more towards what I thought was the hipper trend of the late 80s / early 90s.   I strictly wore button down shirts to school from Bugle Boy and Shah Safari (see Marty McFly’s checkered shirt from BTTF.)  I also loved a store called, Just pants which sold more than pants but mostly denim in nature.   Of course, I also pegged my Bugle Boys and Dockers, so there’s no accounting for taste.)  During the warmer months I became addicted to wearing Ocean Pacific shirts as much as possible.  But I would still look for cool tees when I’d go on vacation.  Sometimes the impetuousness of wanting a souvenir at the expense of level headedness will get you something dumb, like a Miami Mice shirt in 1987 or a airbrushed shirt of you own name in chrome lettering from Cedar Point in 1989.  I have no idea why I wanted these shirts, it was just impulsive buying while on vacation.

Once I got out of the awkward adolescent years and became more of an individual, not influenced by the need to try and dress to impress I went back to my love of t-shirts.  Aside from the occasional Nike shirt I went with the generic graphical tees that usually advertised companies that don’t exist or are simply obscure.  Oddly enough, I still have a few t-shirts from high school that I can still fit into like a Canyon River Blues shirt.

After high school, college became more about function over form.  I wanted shirts that were comfortable more than ones that expressed opinions or humor.   No corporate logos or famous people.  The only time I would violate this rule was in regards to Old Navy, mostly because they were clearance items and I just couldn’t pass up a $5.00 t-shirt.   Otherwise, they were mostly plain and solid colors with no discernable endorsement from any corporation.

Then, in 1996, I spent a summer working at Cedar Point, returning to the scene of the fashion crime, as it were.   As a part of the games crew I felt the need to step in and help bring about a “team shirt” project.  Several people, including myself, contributed to the wording on the shirt and I enlisted the help of one of the caricature artists to draw up a graphic.   The front simply said, “We’re rigged for your pleasure”  while the back consisted of a drawing of a team member surrounded by various games and games equipment like hoops, rings, footballs, basketballs, a whac-a-mole, and water gun.  Appearing with the image was the phrase, “Whether you whack it, smack it, toss it or squirt it, the object is to score.”   I went to a local screen printing shop and got an estimate on a bulk order.   I was able to set the price for each shirt, including larger sizes, at $10.00.  This also gave the artist compensation for his work.  I had just enough left over to cover the cost of gas.  Unfortunately, I had come down with walking pneumonia before the end of the summer and had to turn over all of my paperwork and inventory to another coworker and things got fouled up from there.

The next summer I offered to do the same work and put together a sort of top ten list of most commonly heard questions from guests which constituted some of the stupidest things ever heard at the park.   This time the front said, “It’s our way or the midway”  and the back image looked like a sign from a game with the ten items and a couple of game attendants as well.   Again, it was $10 a shirt and this time I stayed until the end to ensure everyone got their shirt.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I ended up running a t-shirt design business.  All the makings were there from an early age.  Of course, now I wear my own tees, usually.  I have a few that I like from other stores.   There’s the “There are no stupid questions.  Just stupid people.”  And “You’re unique. Just like everyone else.”    Those are from the evil empire known as Walmart.   I also have a tee that I bought from a peer’s site, the ever present in my blog, GritFx.  It’s an Indiana Jones tee called “Bound For Cairo.”     I actually sat and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, not aware that I was wearing this shirt at the time.   I have some Steelers’ themed shirts which is about the extent of my corporate endorsed apparel.   Otherwise, I’m wearing a funny tee, a pop culture themed tee, or simply a plain tee.  It’s a blank canvas, usually reserved for spilled food. 

So, everyone turn to your tag’s washing instructions as we rejoice in the word of the shirt.  Can I get an amen?


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