I Heart the T Shirt
I used to be really into making Tshirts. Now, not so much- but more for personal and creative reasons than anything else. And I still think that Tshirts are an amazing icon of Americana, and a fantastic creative medium.
Back when I was really into it, I wrote this essay. And I decided to keep it up for your enjoyment, even though there may not be any TuraLura Tshirts for…a time.
So you might ask, what is it about T shirts?
When I was a young girl, back when the 80s came around for the very first time, I had a subscription to Seventeen magazine. Phoebe Cates was the big teenage supermodel, and they did layouts showing how to wear army surplus pieces with vintage bed jackets (inspired by Perry Ellis, I believe), and why you shouldn’t be embarrassed about your braces (see, Phoebe’s got ‘em too!), and how you weren’t a total fashion idiot if you wore red and pink together, and how to make sweat clothes look somewhat cool. It was very mainstream- they loved musicians like Barry Manilow, ultimately kind of preppy, and I adored it because it was utterly unlike anything in my actual life.
One layout they did that I particularly remember was on Life in the Future. When I was a child, the Future meant the 21st century- Now, in contemporary terms. It was impossibly far away, and the general notion seemed to be that surely in the Future we would find ways of becoming better and better, that life would be shiny and improved and pleasant, free and fair, a veritable joy for all humanity.
The Future that Seventeen in all its mid-late-20th-century wisdom predicted does not much resemble the world as it is today. So far, we have no insta-manicure product, no automated makeup applicators (just stick your face in the plastic mask and your makeup is applied perfectly for you), no hovercars, no joy for all humanity, and most cliched perhaps of all, no unisex jumpsuits.*
I personally believe that the Unisex Jumpsuit Era of human civilization, long posited by science fiction and Hollywood, will never arrive, in much the same way that I believe that human space programs will never amount to much either, and for much the same reason- the limitations of the frail and imperfect human form. Tight shiny jumpsuits are flattering to about .01% of the human population, usually for a span of no more than 5-10 years. After that, we are most likely kidding ourselves. Likewise the human in space. It requires so much energy to leave the Earth, given our cumbersome bodies and incessant need for oxygen, not to mention the large amounts of fuel needed to get anywhere in this vast universe, that even a trip to the nearest planet in our solar system, Mars, is necessarily one-way. Sorry, sci-fi fans. Prove me wrong!
But how I do go on. The fact is that here in the Future we have already discovered a basic Unisex Uniform, and the funny thing is, we were already wearing it in the 80s, and even in the 50s. Ladies and gentlemen: the T shirt and jeans.
Two simple garments that can literally be worn thousands of ways, the T shirt and jeans make up the all-American uniform that can absorb all the contradictions of our national values: comfort vs. effort, rebellion vs. conformity, blending in vs. standing out, utility vs. style. Short sleeve, long sleeve, no sleeve. Whichever side of whichever fence you fancy you’re on, there is a look for you, from the utterly anonymous Gap-clad mallrat to the most extreme, crustily pierced alternakid; in the end, they’re both wearing different takes on the same basic outfit. Hehehe.
At the same time, people, looking like you slept in your clothes, or are still in third grade, or just got out of the halfway house, is not acceptable. Please go watch some old movies (documentaries from the 1920s through the early 1960s are great) to learn about what adults should look like. Buy a suit, put on some shades and add- what? A T shirt? Yes! Now you look sharp. Now you feel cool. Now you will conquer the world.
It is possible to cut these clothes to be flattering to everyone, regardless of size or shape; to make them in a wide variety of fabrics from chintzy to lux; to embellish them by dying, printing, drawing, applique, beads, bedazzlement, embroidery or marker (or to leave them blank and white). They can be emblazoned with advertising slogans, logos, obscenities and art- perhaps all at the same time. They can get you thrown off a plane. Welcome to the future.
* I am sorry to report that Seventeen was unable to predict the most amazing invention of the Future so far- the iPod. Or should that be updated to iPhone?