Don’t T-Shirts Mean Anything Anymore? What is this World Coming To?

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The “I’m with Stupid” joke taken to the next level.

Back in 1991, when I was in the 8th grade, I remember begging my father to buy me a pair of Umbro shorts.  We were in Dick’s Sporting Goods, and my solemn father shook his head ‘no.’

“These are soccer shorts,” he said.  “Why do you want soccer shorts?  You don’t play soccer.”

“I think they’re cool,” I said, not wanting to reveal the truth (everybody’s wearing them!!!).  “Umbro is a really good brand.”

“Look at the price,” he said.  “I’m not paying that for soccer shorts when you don’t play soccer.”

I’m not sure if I promised that I would start playing soccer, or if I came up with some other brilliant argument, but he eventually relented and I became the proud owner of two pairs of Umbro shorts, one black and one blue, that I would wear to school proudly.  To me, it didn’t matter at all that they were soccer shorts.  The most important thing was that they were shorts – it wasn’t like I was asking for cleats or goalie gloves or something – and could be worn successfully in a non-soccer environment.  And, as I may have mentioned parenthetically earlier, everybody was wearing them.

“I started getting into communism a few months after I was conceived. I’m not sure if it was the work of Marx and Engels, or all the Cuban food my mom ate.”

I couldn’t help but remember that incident over this past weekend, when my girlfriend and I went to Uniqlo to pick out some summer clothes for my (now Umbro-less) wardrobe.  She went over to the t-shirt section and held up a nifty looking black and grey shirt, pressing it up to my body like she was dressing a cut-out doll.

“I can’t wear that,” I quickly said, rejecting her selection.  “It has a picture of Batman and says ‘The Dark Knight.’  I haven’t even seen ‘The Dark Knight.’”

“So?” she asked.  “It looks good on you.”

No, I insisted, I couldn’t wear the Batman shirt since I’m not that into him.  Nor could I wear the ‘Hard Day’s Night’ shirt she liked, or anything with an Andy Warhol print on it because I am decidedly opposed to artwork being on t-shirts.  In the end, I bought a yellow t-shirt with Japanese characters all over it.  Later research revealed that, in future incidents when I wear this shirt, I will be supporting some noodle restaurant in Tokyo.

“That’s fine,” I said.  “I can get behind noodles.”

Lately, I’ve been pondering the t-shirt choices of the general public.  Now I like t-shirts just as much as the next guy, girl, or mannequin, but I, unlike my stance with the Umbro shorts, have grown up believing that what’s on the front of a t-shirt matters.  I remember several instances in the last few years where I tried to ‘connect’ with my students, and ended up failing miserably:

“I love The Velvet Underground. I buy all my organic groceries there.”

“Hey!” I’d say, all excited.  “Awesome Velvet Underground shirt!  That’s a great album.”

“Huh,” the student would respond.  “What are you talking about?”

“You know,” I’d stammer, “your shirt…with the banana on it.  It’s Velvet Underground…Lou Reed…”

“Oh,” the kid would say.  “I just like the design.”

The same thing happened a bunch of times with sports jerseys, too.  “Nice, man!  I didn’t know you’re a Knicks fan!  Go Melo!”

“I hate the Knicks,” the kid would snap back.  “They suck.  I like the Heat.”

“But you have a Knicks hat and a Carmelo Anthony jersey…”

“I just like the colors.”

Where have our allegiances gone, folks?  I’m a Knicks fan, and I would never wear a Heat jersey.  Didn’t this kid know that the Knicks and the Heat hate each other?  It baffled me that this couldn’t matter.  That would be like a Crip dressing in red because it’s more his color, or Bin Laden walking around in a US flag shirt because it took attention away from his ugly beard.  Couldn’t these kids wear band and sports paraphernalia from the groups and teams they actually supported, and thus stop confusing me?

“My life sucks and is full of pain…I paid Supercuts handsomely to express this on my head.”

As steeped in modern vernacular as I am, it somehow eludes me whether or not people use the phrase ‘poser’ anymore, or if there’s a more modern equivalent.  In the ‘90s, if I showed up to school wearing skater jeans and a Rancid t-shirt, I’d likely get grilled on both the subjects of skating and punk music.  And if I failed, if I didn’t know Rancid from Ranch Dressing, I would be termed a ‘poser’ and that would be the end.  There would be no friends for my fake ass. Given that, how can someone nowadays wear a Ramones shirt, not know who the Ramones are, and not get flack about it?  I guess we don’t have any more mean teenagers out there, enforcing the sacred commandment: Thou shall only wear clothing that fits one’s tastes and overall personality.

Right before I purchased the yellow Japanese noodle shirt, my girlfriend and I came to a rack with a whole variety of David Lynch movie shirts on it.  Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, etc.  I was disgusted.  “What the hell is this?” I nearly shouted.  “Why do they have these?  They shouldn’t have these!  I love these movies!  Why are there t-shirts of them being sold at Uniqlo?”

Technically, I should’ve been excited.  If my goal was to find a shirt with something I liked on it, here it was.  My girlfriend shook her head, “Don’t buy that,” she said.  “The design is ugly.”

So that brings me to the closing question: If given the choice of a single shirt, would you rather wear an ugly shirt of something you like, or a cool shirt of something you either don’t like or are oblivious to? There is no right or wrong answer.  Unless, maybe, you’re a Crip.

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4 Cool Looks That Distress Me

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Fashion baffles me.  I don’t get it at all and I never will.  People say that fashion is a form of self-expression.  If that’s true, I’ve basically been stuck in a stutter every since my parents stopped dressing me.  I wonder what my clothes say about me?  No I don’t.  I know what they say about me.  They say, “This guy buys all his clothes at Uni Qlo.”  Or they say, “This guy doesn’t wear clothes because he enjoys them.  He wears clothes because he has to.”

Not that I want to be naked or anything.  I’m just saying, if society didn’t expect me to wear a shirt and jeans, as opposed to, I don’t know, some Underoos, I’d probably be at the bar looking like Shazam.

Here in Korea, which, I’m told, is “fashion forward,” I get to see a lot of different looks.  I won’t lie, I’m often impressed
by how well the Koreans and the ex-pat teachers dress.  But once in awhile I see things and I think, “Hmm.  I couldn’t do that.”  It isn’t that these things are bad, per say, they just aren’t possibilities for me, for a variety of reasons.  So here, directly below, are four things I’ve seen recently that I don’t understand.

Exhibit A: Coat with No Sleeves

It’s cold outside.  Real cold.  You put on your coat to warm up.  But then you realize that your coat has no sleeves.  Your arms are still exposed to the bitter cold.  What kind of loopy coat is this?  Is this some sort of lame joke, like the solar powered flashlight or the book on how to read?  How can a coat have no sleeves?  That’s like buying deodorant that smells like B.O.!

Okay, in all seriousness, the sleeveless coat is kind of cool looking.  If I had muscles, maybe I would wear a vest coat.  Scratch that.  As cool as it looks, the practical aspect of the sleeveless coat is too much for me to handle.  A coat has a specific purpose, which is to keep me warm.  And since I don’t have muscles to help with that, I need sleeves.

Exhibit B: Headphones around the neck

I like the look of the sleeveless coat (which some people might call a “vest”); on the contrary, I feel wearing headphones around your neck while in a social setting makes you look like a douche bag.  I don’t know why…they’re just headphones…but damn, man, why are they around your neck?  What are you, a DJ?  Go play some techno then, and stop hitting on the cute girls in the bar.  To me, wearing headphones around the neck is as obnoxious as some dude in a band wearing his guitar around his shoulder all night.  Listen, DJ Shadow, get your giant headphones off your neck before they give you scoliosis.  Cause you’re annoying me.

Exhibit C: Glasses with no lenses (or glasses with plastic lenses)

Wearing glasses with no lenses reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where Costanza pretended he was wheelchair bound so people would be nicer to him.  Glasses make a person look smarter, and glasses can be sexy.  But the thing is, you actually have to NEED glasses for these things to be true.  Wearing glasses frames alone doesn’t cut it.  You must deserve to wear glasses.  Personally, I think it’s pretty interesting when someone has a cast on his arm.  You don’t see me walking around with some fake cast, do you?  No, that would be ridiculous.  Only people with broken bones get to wear casts.  And only people with vision problems should get to wear glasses.  That’s the way God intended it when he made vision problems and glasses.

Exhibit D: Ear Hoodie
Now, this isn’t something a guy would wear anyhow, although it would be hilarious if I started showing up places with the “ear hoodie” on.  The “ear hoodie” is more of a kid thing – my girl students at school wear them.  It’s not just for Halloween or something; they wear them daily.  Is it adorable?  Absolutely, 100% yes.  However, like Underoos, one can reach an age where wearing the “ear hoodie” becomes creepy.  You know how you have to be 18 to smoke?  Well, there should be a law saying only people under 14 can purchase the “ear hoodie.”  They should check IDs.  “I’m sorry, miss, but I’m going to need to see some identification.  Oh, you’re 17…under law I can’t allow you to purchase this item.”  And if you’re dating a Korean girl and she wears the “ear hoodie,” you really should be ashamed of yourself.  It’s questionable to want to dress your Korean girlfriend up in a school girl uniform; the “ear hoodie” is totally over the line.  If you want your girlfriend to have teddy bear ears on her head, you’re a disgusting Westerner.  Remember, she never would’ve dated you in the first place if you didn’t have those glasses and the headphones around your neck.

Hmm, maybe this post is getting a bit mean.  It’s further proof that fashion brings out the worst in me.  If you wear any of these things, I still love you.  All I ask in return is that you love me, and my Uni Qlo sweater vests.

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