Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.
The idea for T-Shirt of the Week started about three months ago. I was attempting to clean up my bedroom—a miserable wasteland of clutter and junk that never seems to go away—when I realized that I had way too many t-shirts. It’s no exaggeration when I say that there are several hundred t-shirts in my collection, which I know is far more than any person needs, yet I still have them. And as I went through the dresser drawers that were crammed full, and I started pulling shirts out that I intended to give to charity, I began to realize that every shirt had a story, and that those stories spoke volumes about my life as well as me as a person.
If you checked out Week #5 then you know that in the past I have bought shirts because I loved the design, and then never actually worn the shirt. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but it has happened more than once. Case in point: this Bruce Lee shirt that I have had for over ten years [NOTE: Now it is more than 18 years], and never worn a single time [NOTE: I still haven’t worn this shirt].
I was walking down the 8th Street in New York City, most likely headed to Gray’s Papaya Prince on 6th Avenue and 8th, where you can get two hotdogs for $1. When I lived in NYC, and whenever I visit, Papaya Prince is always a major staple of my diet—not the healthiest choice, I know, but the hotdogs are Kosher. Anyway, the point is that I was on the south side of 8th Street, which is unusual for me, because I almost always walk on the north side. (Don’t ask me why, because the answer is so ridiculous it will make me seem even more “eccentric.”) As I was walking down the street, either going to Papaya Prince (or possibly Tower Records on Broadway), I passed a shop with this shirt in the window. Being a huge fan of Bruce Lee, as well as someone who appreciates a nice graphic image, and last, but certainly not least, a person with an odd addiction to t-shirts, I had to have it.
So, that’s the story of how I came to own this shirt. I’m not sure when I bought it, but I do know it was in the mid 1990s (most likely 1995 of 1996). I showed it to my cousin and my friends, and everyone agreed it was cool design, and then it went into a drawer—having never been worn—where it sat for over ten years until I pulled it out a few months ago [NOTE: It went back into that draw, where it continues to sit, never having been worn].
Sadly, there’s no great story about the shirt. I saw it. I bought it. I never wore it. I wish I could say that I was wearing it when I met the love of my life, or that I was wearing it that time I got into a fight at Fat Burger in Los Angeles, or that all of my friends have a shirt with the same design, and we would sit around wearing them watching Bruce Lee movies and getting drunk. But there’s no story like that. I don’t even remember the shirt I was wearing when I got into the fight at Fat Burger. The only shirt that me and my friends all had was a Batman design, and that one isn’t with all the other Batman shirts in my collection (yes, I do categorize my shirts. Fuck you for laughing). And I have not met the love of my life.
So, there is no funny story to go with this shirt—no classic moments in the life and times of David Walker that can be directly linked to it. I don’t look at it and think, “I used that shirt to wipe up the mess after I gave some chick a pearl necklace.” (That shirt will be coming later, no pun intended). At the same time, I realize this shirt says as much about me as all the others. Maybe even a little bit more.
Since this is the story of my life as told by the t-shirts I have worn, or, more appropriately, the t-shirts that I own, I won’t let this week’s column degenerate into some sort of therapy session. But I will say this: T-Shirt of the Week started out as a bit of a joke three months ago when I was cleaning up my room. It was never my intention to give it this much thought. Now, however, as I rummage through drawers and duffle bags and boxes filled with t-shirts, I realize that this little project of mine runs a bit deeper and has greater resonance for me than was originally intended. Seriously, this was just meant to be a joke!