Summer Is For The T-Shirt And Nostalgia Dressing
Clothing for the anti-clothing season.
Wear Your Clothes is a monthly column that expands upon and celebrates the sentimentality that comes with a long-worn and Very Good Garment™.
Summer is the anti-clothing season. Whereas fall and winter are characterized by their excess—layering, the clashing of textures, superfluous draping—summer is often about wearing the least you can. And for many of us who love getting dressed, it can feel harder to dress distinctively when operating within these parameters. That said, the practice of finding deeply personal and reliable pieces—even in the hottest season—is a surefire way to maintain a sense of self.
Tee shirts are unique. Unlike designer clothing, which at best allow you to proclaim a self-referential allegiance to the piece itself, tee shirts are a canvas for taking the practice of fashion outside of strict garmentry. Finding a tee shirt can force you to think about what you love and have the opportunity to wear that story—whether it be a memory or a fanaticism—on your short sleeve.
So in celebration of July’s issue, Heatwave, this edition of Wear your clothes is an ode to the tee shirt. But not just the Uniqlo tee that you purchased and love for the way it fits; rather, this is an homage to the tee shirts that with every wear—like the power of a long forgotten aroma—invoke a memory or a fascination.
Paul McCartney, 2005
My very first concert was Paul McCartney at the Pepsi Center when I was seven years old. He was my favorite Beatle. Like with all memories of that era, I wonder if what I recall is actual recollection, or an amalgam of glimpses shoddily put together based on retellings from my mother. More likely a combination of both.
I remember during an explosive performance of “Live and Let Die,” fireworks erupted from the stage during the chorus. The cacophony proved overwhelming for my sibling (it is possible it was I who became overwhelmed; this is an example of the floundering of memory) and we retreated to the concourse of the arena to watch the finale on a crackling monitor hanging above a concession stand.
It only dawns on me as I write this piece that this was nearly 20 years ago. One of the most definitive signs of aging is having moments when you realize you can remember something—however imperfectly—from decades ago.
The shirt still fits.
From the ages of two to four, I wore a Spider-man costume “most days.” I was enamored with the character for most of my youth and remain an ardent fan of what I view to be the undisputed best superhero. I have a vivid memory of sitting with my dad on the couch, leafing through an omnibus of classic Spider-man comics as he asked me to qualify each villain’s motivation into one of two buckets: money or world domination. Our mutual love of Peter Parker has been a unifying thread for us to this day.
With the proliferation of the superhero-movie-industrial-complex over the last decade or so, this fandom is now more loaded as the films are largely responsible for the state of film’s deterioration in recent years. That said, my allegiance to the hero lingers in my practice of collecting vintage Spider-man tee shirts—some of my most prized garments. The two pictured above are a meager sampling of those I have collected over the years.
This was supposed to be the future
The first tee shirt my mind concocts when I think of the notion of a graphic tee shirt is this relic of the 2000s that my dad wore frequently throughout my childhood. Around 5 years ago, to my excitement, I found it in a pile of shirts he told me he was “giving away,” and eagerly tucked it into my bag.
This tee shirt predates the ironic tees to come in the late early 2010s (“Not until I’ve had my coffee”) and instead has a thesis behind the cheekiness of the language. I love “They lied to us”—a reminder of my dad’s always evolving and always foundationally anti-establishment ideology. In a list of complaints about unfulfilled promises of the future, the shirt concludes: “where is my cure for this disease”. I remember not understanding this line at all as a kid.
I understand it now.
In conclusion, wear your clothes. If you’re just tuning in, Wear your clothes is about how the practice of finding beloved pieces of clothing and wearing them tirelessly is the most instrumental aspect of formulating a personal sense of style. Tee shirts expand this even further, giving you an opportunity to answer a pair of far broader questions: What do you love? What do you remember?