Monday, May 18, 2009

T-Shirt Etiquette

Much has been said on the topic of selecting t-shirts. The modern hipster finds themself awash in an endless sea of choices. Vintage or artificially aged? Is American Apparel still hip after more than ten years on the market? Does anyone else own this shirt? Should I wear a band shirt to a different bands show? Are V-necks sexy? Is it too soon to wear a "Eat My Shorts" t-shirt ironically? Will anyone notice that I bought this Count Chocula t-shirt at Target?

Calm, my loyal readers, calm. These are complex questions to be certain, but as we've learned, nothing is too complicated when armed with knowledge, logic and your parents credit card.

On The Subject Of Band Shirts.
Many an hipster has been made aware of the fundamental error in wearing a band shirt to that band's show. Somewhere in the depths of the collective unconscious, such a thing has been declared "lame". Scientists have yet to make a determination as to where this split in reasoning occurs, but most agree that it was sometime in the late 80's or early 90's. One segment of the population continued to treat their concerts like sporting events and "show the flag," whilst the other segment declared such activities "square" and began the Great War Of Who Could Care Less; this war has continued through this day, and bodies line the streets of our Great American Culture.

It should suffice to say that the selection of shirt for attending a concert carries with it a different set of guidelines than normal, day in, and day out wearing of shirts. Nothing carries more fear and indecision than this moment in a hipsters life. Well, perhaps making mixtapes. ...or vintage underwear. Whatever.

Hipsters! Be cautioned, the wearing of a bands t-shirt to their show may very well lead to your imminent social demise and an utterly horrifying set of insults from your PBR swilling peers. There is little else that can ruin your tenuous grasp on popularity faster, save being caught actually enjoying music.

As for the rest of the world, rest easy. The choice to wear or not to wear is really a personal decision and carries with it no real effect one way or the other. Do not concern yourself overmuch with the petty antics of small minded people. It's just a show, it's just a shirt, just enjoy the fucking show.

Concerning Irony.
In many ways, I find myself at odds with the concept of irony. It is a word much bandied about in the vaunted circles of culture, one I find lacking in relevance to the topic at hand; in the most literal of senses, comedic irony requires the knowledge of the viewer in order to have its intended effect. I would posit that the wearing of a Lucky Charms t-shirt does not qualify as any kind of irony. From the outside looking in, there is no way to tell if someone is not a life long aficionado of that vile chemical and agricultural byproduct stew. For all I know, the gentleman wearing that shirt may have neon blood and Type 2 diabetes.

Wikipedia gives a fairly succinct definition to work from:

"The simplest definition of irony is 'the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.'"

Without the knowledge that one band or another is currently residing in the "hip list" somewhere in the blogosphere, it is difficult to determine if someone is honestly into White Snake or is making some pedestrian and ill conceived attempt at irony (the recent ironic popularity of mullets further complicates this individual example). I tend to assume that people are fairly direct and if I find you wearing a NKOTB shirt, I will insult you promptly, viciously, and without cease. That is of course, my choice. Irony is an art best left to those capable of wielding the subtle knife of literary device.

High minded and vaguely elitist observations aside, I find it difficult to endorse ironic t-shirts as a whole. They fail as often as they succeed, and as such I consider them not worth pursuing. I find myself firmly on the side of authentic cultural expression and this obsession with "ironically" embracing a shitty pop culture as some vague attempt to point out its absurdity ends up just reintroducing it to a whole new generation of people. In essence, you end up supporting by advertisement what you claim to detest. This is irony defined- surreal, absurd, and true.

In The Interest Of Authenticity and Commerce.
I see the entire subject of one primarily of fashion. Appearances mean a lot to a great number of people; this may not be the most enlightened way to run a culture, but it's the the damning truth of this place in time. That with which people adorn themselves defines the first meeting to an extent that most people are not comfortable admitting. To this end I advise all of you dear people to be as honest with yourselves as possible whilst perusing your t-shirt collection one Saturday afternoon. We are defined in those first few moments by our appearance and no amount of enlightened reasoning will change centuries of cultural training and the inherent reliance on aesthetic sensibilities of the human animal, i.e., Me Like Pretty.

One of the biggest reasons that the t-shirt has so much prominence in culture is the financial support that it lends musicians and artists. The profit model constructed by the Dinosaur Labels dictated that band merchandise profits remained largely in the hands of the band direct while they consumed any album sales profits en masse. Strangely enough, the advent of the freely piratable MP3 has made this profit model hold through into the beginning of the 21st century. The only real difference is that Dinosaur Labels aren't sucking up nearly as much profit. Bands are still doing OK, and in a lot of instances are actually doing much better. So we music fans should continue to show love at live shows, buying stickers, vinyl and t-shirts direct from the musicians we appreciate. The best way to show your support, easily enough, is to give them money.

Full Disclosure.
I am a huge webcomics fan, music dork and utter geek. So I shop at TopatoCo. These folks are among the funniest and most honest people on the interwebs and I try to keep them making the funny by buying a bunch of t-shirts from them. There are a few other key resources out there but TopatoCo (based out of Northhampton, MA) has a perfect combination of characteristics for me. They're funny, printed locally on American Apparel, and the majority of the profits goes to the webcomic artists that design them. I've been looking for something similar for music shirts and I haven't really found anything that hits the same level of authenticity, responsibility and quality. There are a lot of really shitty merch companies out there and if anyone knows of a good Portland local shop I'd love to hear about it. If there isn't one, there's a market sitting out there for a TopatoCo of music.

In Closing.
T-shirts are really not that complicated. Find ones that are comfortable and speak truly of your proclivities. If the bullshit at Hot Topic really speaks deeply about the nature of your being, by all means, get on it. Who am I to stand in your way? Be honest folks, that's all anyone can really ask for in the end, and don't worry too much. Fretting over the choice of a shirt means that you've failed to be honest when buying, and honestly your worrying won't do you much good now. At the risk of sounding cheesy, just feel the vibe. If you can't throw that shirt on at any time and feel comfortable with it, don't buy it.

Now go out and make some local band happy, buy a t-shirt.

Stay classy internet.
Eriq Nelson

Queries? Questions? Quandries? Quench your thirst.


Carl B said...

"Lucky Charms ... that vile chemical and agricultural byproduct stew."

I laughed hard at that. Eriq, you've become a highly entertaining writer.

custom t shirts said...

It look like some thing that people dont wana buy!!!!