Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Decade-Old T-Shirt

Greetings All:

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present...the decade-old t-shirt.  Well, it's not exactly 10 years old.  I got it during the summer of 2003 from a friend of mine.  Somehow, it made it from New Jersey to Arizona and now back to Iowa.  It's got a few holes, the color is faded and some stains.  It is beyond the stage of wearing in public, even the gym.  It is strictly regulated for the gym, inside the house and yard work.  It is like a felon on work-release.

I was thinking about why I have this particular shirt.   Why it was a priority, sub-conscious or otherwise, to keep it?  It may be as simple as it made it into the right bow/bag/crate to get moved.  Who knows, I might have even worn it during one or more moves.

I think the simple answer is- I like it.  I am a big Jimmy Buffett fan and the fact that I am a lawyer and it says, "ParrotHead Bar Exam."  As I recall, the term "Parrothead" has been around for a while.  Rumor has it that Mr. Buffett himself coined the phrase looking out on a sea of fans (lubricated in some fashion, at least some of them) dressed in the regalia that one wears to a Buffett concert.  I recall, but alas cannot find, the quote from Esquire magazine where it was written (if memory serves me) that, "[p]arrotheads are Deadheads with MBAs,..." or words to that effect.  Here's some more about Parrotheads if you're curious:

I love Buffett and that is a blog post in itself.  However, for this post, let's get back to t-shirts: 

I am a t-shirt guy.  I wear one just about every day and just like them.  Even when I had to wear a suit in the summer, I'd wear a t-shirt with my dress shirt.  If I have my choice, I'd just as soon wear a t-shirt if the weather is nice.  Although I am pretty sure there are no shirts that have survived college or law school, I have a tendency to hold onto them for a while.  I suppose that is a form or hoarding.  Then again, I respectfully and firmly offer in my defense that the shirt mentioned above (and marked as Defense Exhibit A for purposes of identification, :)) I do wear this shirt.

In fact, I was listening to Unstuff Your Life by Andrew J. Mellon.  In chapter six, he goes into detail about how to conduct a clothes purge.  His methods on organizing could be viewed from somewhere between tough love and downright brutal, depending on your perspective.  I have not listened to his whole book, but he has some good ideas.  I take comfort in the fact that notwithstanding this shirt is old and has some holes, I wear it.  It survives the purge, even avoids getting put into the sentimental box.  For more about Andrew's book, please check out the link below.  It is also available on, where I obtained it.

So why the affection for t-shirts in our world?  I suppose there is the purely functional aspect of them.  They are comfortable, easy to care for, cheep and versatile.  I believe all these reasons to be true.  However, I would also suggest there is another reason why t-shirts are so popular.  It is a way to express individual thoughts, opinions, loyalties and affections.  Give a grandparent a t-shirt with their grandkids on it and they will wear the thing out.  Just ask my Dad. :).

I have probably a dozen University of Iowa t-shirts.  One that I closely ration the wear of is my 2006 Big Ten Basketball Championship t-shirt.  After all, we're not Indiana and win it all the time.  Speaking of championship shirts, ever wonder what happens to the losing team's shirts?  After all, there has to be two "Champion" t-shirts to pass out on the field or court?  Where do these go?  They cannot just be given to Goodwill.  I found a link below that shows these shirts of the losers do find good homes in third world nations.   I wonder if any American tourists ever do a double-take seeing them in circulation.

I heard an urban legend that during the Battle of Mogadishu, as highlighted in the Black Hawk Down book and movie and the book is a compelling read by author Mark Bowden, that a Somali engaged U.S. forces wearing a Buffalo Bills Superbowl Champions t-shirt while wildly firing an AK-47.  If true, that takes surreal to a whole new level.

I do recognize the reality that my beloved Buffett t-shirt is soon to be beyond wear.  Likely it will perform one more service, on a hot day when there is grass to be cut.  It will be retired.  Perhaps it will become a rag but more than likely, simply throw away.  It had a good run but the time has come.  Mellon talks about there being no shame in throwing out clothes that have worn out. 

I found this quote from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations that sums this up, at least for me:

“All things fade and quickly turn to myth.”

If you have a favorite t-shirt you are still holding onto for whatever reason, feel free to comment on it.  I'd like to read about it.  Wishing everyone a great upcoming week, spring and summer. 

Best rgs,


  1. I had a West Falcons football half shirt that got "lost" in life. If I could get it back...I'm sure that it would NEVER be worn, because, well, let's face it, no one really wants to see a woman this old in a half shirt anymore. LOL. But when you were going on about WHY a shirt has sentimental reasons, THIS one stands out most vividly. That and the 38 Special/Night Ranger baseball jersey from 1984 that I DO still have, but won't wear for posterity's sake.

    1. Tammy, thanks for the comment! Night Ranger is a great band and I would totally hang onto that shirt. Dawn had a Whitesnake t-shirt that did not survive one of our moves. Thanks for checking out the blog!

  2. Nice piece about something we can all relate to. Unfortunately, I have too many favorite t shirts. My Mom made a quilt for me out of some of them, but that was over 20 years ago and includes my Stones and Billy Joel shirts as well as my various teacher shirts from the schools I worked at and my early race shirts. Now I have a whole new (old) crop that must be dealt with.

  3. Hey Margie, appreciate you checking in and sharing your t-shirt story. I have heard about the quilt option. T-shirts do have a tendency to accumulate. I have some that I need to deal with as well this spring. I know that there are two I will not throw out ever, as they were given to me by my Mom. Thanks for reading!