Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Random Thoughts About T-shirts

They started life as men's underwear. Then farmers and minors in the late 19th century started taking off their shirts when the weather got hot. In the early 20th century, the underwear-as-outerwear was associated with manual labor. Then along came Marlon Brando and James Dean in the 1950s, and underwear simply became outerwear. Then outerwear became a billboard, for an event, a message, or ... who know's what else?

I have several drawers full of t-shirts, some of which I haven't worn in years, and not just because they no longer fit. They come from folk dance weekends in the early 90s, cajun-zydeco dance camps in the 00s. There is one featuring an icon of the Madonna and Child, and another with the American flag done up in an antique appearance. Too many memories go along with them to part with them, although most of the cajun-zydeco set got pitched, on behalf of memories of drunken idiots behaving badly after you work your @$$ off for them I would sooner do without. I even designed a t-shirt once many years ago for a folk festival. It was so popular, the following year someone took a whole bunch of them in different color choices, and made a quilt out of them to raffle off at the same event. Nothing like that has ever happened since. Ironically, they stopped asking me to design their t-shirts.

That was twenty years ago. I still don't get it.

Even the scriptures make reference to "putting on the new Man." It is a reference to Christ, but the metaphor of clothing is meant to convey to us, the identity of our vesture with ourselves. "Clothes make the man" as the saying goes. In more recent years, t-shirts have carried a message which ostensibly speaks truth to power, or is meant for the comprehension of a limited audience. It is easier than a secret handshake, which is more convenient when lost in a crowd. It is meant to send a message across that crowd.

Sometimes it sends the wrong message, especially when approaching or Holy Communion, and the priest wonders if you understand your own message, or if he needs to send YOU one. It makes you want to ask yourself ...

1 comment:

geeta arts said...
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