The other day I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that simply said “Ocean”. I thought: That’s deep. Once the excitement about the brilliant one-liner I had just come up with had worn off—in other words, once I had texted all my friends the joke and they all responded with a crushingly disappointing ‘no’—I began thinking about how much I hate T-shirts that have text on them. I am of the opinion that T-shirts should not be read. Generally it’s generic combinations of generic words and random two-digit numbers (42 and 51 seem to be a favourite among T-shirt designers) that I despise the most.
Go to H&M and you’ll know what kind of T-shirts I’m talking about. Only recently, I saw one that had “New York City Surf” written in white font over a collage of different photographs of waves. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of locations in the US that are typically associated with surfing, I tend to think California or Hawaii, but definitely not New York. I have unfortunately never been to New York, but my impression is that it’s not exactly a surfer’s paradise. And I think that, even in a city like New York, no one is quite hipster enough to carry a surfboard with them at all times. There is a reason why the typical hipster favours the ukulele. In a Venn diagram of hipsterdom, it is the intersection of non-conformism and practicality.
“New York City Surf”. This must be an ironic T-shirt. It simply has to be. I think the reason why this T-shirt design exists can be traced back to a mental disorder that, as of yet, is unfortunately not officially recognised by clinical psychologists. I’m still debating with myself about possible names for the condition. For the time being I’ll stick with compulsive postmodernism. It’s when you’re so fucking postmodern that you cannot do anything unironically anymore. Like so many mental disorders, it can lead to insanity and, in the most depressing cases, suicide. (I wonder what it would look like if a person took their own life ironically. You’d probably scream in horror and at the same time laugh your tits off. And that can’t be good for your nut.)
Another memory that pops up when thinking about T-shirts that are noteworthy in the least favourable sense of the word involves me waiting at a bus stop when an elderly woman walks by. She must have been about eighty. Frightening figure she was. Looked like a mixture of Professor McGonagall, Gandalf, and Jabba the Hutt. She was wearing a T-shirt that read “I CAN AND I WILL”. The T-shirt was vomit green and the type was piss yellow, which means that despite all its aesthetic shortcomings, I cannot accuse the designers of having an incoherent design philosophy.
She can and she will. What could that possibly refer to? It could mean so many things; her general attitude to life, singing, dancing, being openly racist, playing ping pong, or shoving twelve carrots up her arse and then rolling around naked in the garden. How will we ever know? There is, of course, a remote possibility that it’s just another generic, meaningless T-shirt. But let’s not kid ourselves. That could hardly be it. I like to believe it’s all about adversity, about overcoming the obstacles put in one’s path by what the Germans so charmingly call ‘der innere Schweinehund’ (the inner pig-dog). If that is the message this woman wants to share with the world then I have nothing to say other than “Good on her!”, so long as her ableness and willingness is entirely void of sexual connotations. I should stress that this is not because I’m ageist. It’s because I have a bit of a phobia of wrinkled, flabby skin. And it tends to be old people who have that kind of skin. I’m well aware that if I’m lucky enough to make it to her age I am not going to look much different from what she looks like now. I guess the unfortunately necessary by-product of getting old is that you will inevitably look like Jabba in human form, and depending on which mental illness you’ll have, you might even speak like him. Back to old people and fornication.
The British comedian Marcus Brigstocke once wonderfully pointed out, when debating whether or not old people should be allowed to have sex (this was part of a TV show called Argumental, in case you’re interested) that “there’s a certain age where the body’s fluids stop running […] I don’t want to be too graphic, but I don’t know if anyone here’s ever tried to eat muesli without any milk.” I actually think old people should feel free to have as much sex as they want. However, they should never ever be allowed to talk about or in any way reference the fact that they are sexually active outside their bedroom. This, of course, extends to wearing clothes with text on them (never mind sexual activeness, you wouldn’t want to see your grandfather wear a hoodie that reads “Fully Functioning Dick”, would you?).
I think I’ll conclude this article by calling for a worldwide ban of T-shirts that are not unicoloured. Well, maybe I won’t go quite that far. It’s just that I prefer unicoloured T-shirts because I know I’ll be certain to still like them in a few years’ time. They can never get more boring than they already are, and this gives me great reassurance. As far as I know, plain white T-shirts are very unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon. And at this point it feels like white T-shirts have become part of my identity (Kevin Lux starter pack meme: White T-shirt, round-neck. Tight-fitting blue jeans. Bright red socks. Brown dress shoes). All that being said, there will soon be an exciting exception to confirm the rule that is my blissfully undiversified wardrobe, because I will soon be in possession of a T-shirt with the irresistibly charming South Park character Mr Mackey on it. I’m giddy at the thought of wearing it.
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