it's my favorite time of year. december is upon us! the snow is falling, everyone smiles at you extra nice so you'll buy more stuff, and best of all, my friends and i make our top 10 albums of the year lists, which is an extremely laborious process that takes, well, basically an entire year to compile, discuss, argue, insult, and fastidiously and obsessively rearrange. so to warm up i am presenting a different top 10 list, of probably equal significance, import, and influence in world politics. i am speaking of course of my top 10 favorite t-shirts.
ah, the t-shirt. is there a more essential, versatile piece of wardrobe? they're like souvenirs as fashion statements, and since i don't really like fashion statements or souvenirs, i love them to their 100% cotton core because they do an excellent job of both things at once. without further ado, then, the ten most cared-for pieces of the one article of clothing i most carelessly wear.
at number 10 we have this number from my favorite lincoln record shop, spindle records. evan schmidt and i went to spindle's going out of business sale (it later came back to business, and arguably with cooler tshirts) intending to purchase a shirt along with all the on sale records, figuring they'd be pretty cheap. we found so much clearance vinyl i totally forgot about the shirts, but evan remembered at the cash register, and we each picked up a nice parting gift for something like $5. the design is half film reel and half 45 spacer, which is far from amazing but is sort of nice looking. plus, it's green and yellow. green and yellow has been screwed up maybe...once since they made the switch to color, and every other time it's been pretty much perfect.
up next we have this concert purchase from the summer. if you're a reader of this online publication (or if you know how to click the archive link) you already know some of what made that night so great, and the flaming lips and the night itself make the memory half of this shirt especially great. that night really truly was a memorably wonderful and happy night that served to lighten the heavy days that surrounded it. but touching sentimentality for summer shows aside, look at the thing! the colors! the design! wayne's hair! those hands! bonus points for the hands later showing up in the fall's gondry film, which can't really ever be a bad thing.
8: another concert relic, this one from explosions in the sky. this was another particularly inspiring show that reminds why you like music and why you pay so much to see it played live. explosions has great artwork for their albums, and their t-shirts are right on par with their best stuff. they had several really cool designs, and i think my friends and i all managed to pick up a different one. this one, though, was my favorite. the idea--a couple is lifted, floating, by their kiss, or by love--is great already, but i think the way their limbs are hanging, and especially the guy's tie, are what make this shirt really great. they're either weightless or they're defying gravity, and either one sounds pretty good to me.
when i was in spain, this t-shirt was a pretty reliable way to identify study abroad kids. as the palest, blondest, least hispanic-looking person in most of the places i went, the last thing i needed was more help outing myself as a tourist. plus i would have just felt like a tool wearing it around. i mean, EVERYBODY was doing it! so i didn't buy one. and then i got home, and i realized a pretty substantial fact: i was no longer in spain, and thus no longer studying abroad, and thus no longer a part of a very visual minority (whose majority i had sought to avoid). so i regretted not purchasing the famous osborne bull shirt, and when aaron went to spain for the second time this year, i made sure not to make the same mistake twice, and i asked him to bring me one home. as far as the article itself, it's a classic. look at that anatomically correct bull, standing so proud and defiant! and the red...it is (quint)essentially and (arche)typically spanish, which is obviously a good thing. obviously!
andrew lawton and i spent 48 minutes together every day just after lunch experiencing some of the most profound and intense moments of boredom and frustration we will probably ever suffer through while "learning" about our great nation. as a sort of escape from a pretty miserable pedagogical nightmare, we imagined what life would be like for the first US astronauts to live on the mir space station. this led to the invention of two russian cosmonauts, yuri and dmitry, who were a strange combination of the ambiguously gay duo, hanz and franz from saturday night live, and....come to think of it, the borat character, who at that time had not yet been invented. in character, we complained about "ze american peeg dohgs" and their horrible capitalistic system of commerce. andrew went away for college, but made second semester of my freshman year just a little bit better by coming home that winter and bringing with him matching shirts, one with "yuri" on the back and the other with "mitya". it was like team communism had jerseys or something--i was elated. my enthusiasm for actually wearing this shirt diminished when i realized my parents and other people their age probably were not going to stop looking at me like some kind of subversive (slash terrorist) when i wore it, but i still think it's a great t-shirt.
a good deal of my fondness for this shirt (#5, if you're keeping track) stems from a probably embarrassing pride of the performance it commemorates, which was my high school's one-act my senior year. but we really did something that year, man! we, like, really took on a challenging piece, and made an important statement! and so on. as great as it was to have my name so near arthur miller's (on the back, which is how these shirts always go), though, the action on this shirt takes place up front. the fallen tree plays a pretty pivotal role in the story, and my friend mike bartsch had this in mind when he designed the shirt. he drew the broken, sideways tree and wrote "all my sons" in a typewriter kind of font. it was a very minimalistic design and i thought it was very worthy of the whole thing (no small endorsement considering my total lack of perspective on the matter). but a funny thing happened on the way to the silk-screen company. a fellow classmate decided there should be no broken tree without there being a stump from whence it came, so she took the liberty of adding it right into the designer's drawing, without even asking him or anything. and the silk screen company or someone else decided to just lift the drawing and type the words in using one of those fonts your computer has but you never actually thought you'd see used. for a long time the first thing i did when i got the shirt out of the dryer was reapply a generous dose of sharpie to the trunk, trying in vain to darken it out into oblivion. it didn't work, as you can see.
here's another shirt i wished i'd bought in spain when i got home. this one, though, i'd looked all over for and never found just as i wanted it. i could never find a shirt with the seal and the name all written out like a college shirt, like this one. and what university shirts i did find i never found in my beloved heather grey color, which is pretty obviously the best color for a t-shirt. fortunately for me, my friend sarah (whom i'd met over there) and i had by the time she got home from spain established a pretty good tradition of sending each other packages in the mail, and when she found that the shirt she got for her dad was too small, she did what any good friend would do and sent it my way. if when people say "it's the thought that counts" they mean that sarah thinking of me when she bought the shirt would have been the most important part of the gift, those people are totally wrong. this shirt is super great, and it's from spain, and it says "i've been to spain!". when i wear this shirt, i don't even have to try to be a unique person, my shirt advertises my special person traits to the world at large all on its own.
probably the greatest rock and roll road trip i've ever taken was the time adam nun and i went to see sigur ros in minneapolis on their agaetis byrjun tour...without tickets. to make a story i've often enjoyed making very long quite a bit shorter, we showed up early at the venue, spotted jonsi outside, met him, talked with him, got on the guest list, and then ran around minneapolis for no apparent reason in a fit of unbridled joy and stupidity for a few hours until the doors opened. we called aaron chambers in our fit of excitement and delirium, and he asked us to get him a shirt, and then the three of us all ended up with one of these shirts, which does a great job of sticking to the artwork of an album that is one of my all-time favorites. plus, it looks so good with kakhi shorts, and it's dark enough that it doesn't show pit stains too bad. it's an all-around summertime winner.
the other day i wore this shirt and i remarked to aaron that at this point it looks like the t-shirt the world's first sunny day real estate fan EVER would wear. this was one of the first band shirts i ever had, which is funny because of it's iron-transfer origins--it's totally the first rock shirt for a former homeschooled kid. i like this shirt because i made it myself, and i like the album, and i like the album art. i don't reckon i have a lot to say about this one, other than that i've probably worn it about a thousand times and it wore really well, all faded and with modestly sized holes spread randomly throughout. it's a classic.
this shirt is my goldenboy. except i don't have the heart to finish it off, so now it just sits in my dresser, unworn for fear that those last strands will finally fall apart and my favorite shirt will die. there's a certain kind of hipster who would buy this shirt in a thrift store, and if someone would ask him if he actually went on a cruise in 1992 would say "psh, no!", making clear his disdain for anyone with enough money to spend on that kind of thing. he might even mutter "stupid leisure class!" under his breath, just for good measure. so it's kind of funny that if someone asked me if i got this shirt at a thrift store i'd probably answer in some way that i would hope would show how much i dislike some of those ironic t-shirts, and some of those ironic t-shirt wearing hipsters. oh, the irony! anyway, i WAS crusin' in '92, and it was great fun for me. at the time, the shirt was too big for me, even too big for me to wear back in 92 when arsenio hall and mc hammer (and...vanilla ice?) had made wearing baggy things cool. but slowly and surely, my stature and the midwest's fashion sense moved toward each other until they converged and seemed to stand perfectly in place for all of my college years, which is to say, the best t-shirt wearing years.
so there it is, my top 10 t-shirts. or more accurately, a personal history in 10 t-shirts. now excuse me while i decide which are my favorite pairs of underwear for the next list.