T-shirts. Casual or Culture?

If you were looking for a barometer of trends in politics, culture, fashion or social status you could do worse than study T-shirts.

Few garments have stood the test of time better. You might say jeans have lasted as long, but apart from altering in shape [from straight to flared and back, for instance], getting a few strategic rips and patches or sequins they don’t vary much.

The previous generation to my own [ie pre-babyboomers] were not T-shirt wearers. My father got up and put on a proper, ironed shirt-collar and all-and unless he was going outside to dig the garden he would add a tie, considering that he was not suitably attired without one. He continued to adhere to this dress code until poor health condemned him to pyjamas.

The T-shirt, according to Wikipedia originated in the 19th century from undergarments worn by factory workers then became a staple for US military personnel before becoming glamorous in its plain, white form pasted on to the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando in the 1950s. Who could not fail to admire the rippling white fabric stretched across young Brando’s chest as he reared over Blanche Dubois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’?

These days T-shirts fall into various categories, sometimes getting adopted as high fashion on a designer’s whim, proclaiming which side of the stadium a fan shows allegiance to, which rock band is beloved by the wearer and which festival tour they’ve attended, being used as a vehicle for showing off a ponsy holiday destination-as in a map of The Galapagos-, or to inform company that the wearer is up for it [eg inscribed with ‘Angel’ or ‘Hot’]. This last is as alluring as driving around with a personalised number-plate such as the ‘I5EXY’ I spotted once and it is tempting to add ‘not’ to it somehow.

There are also the ones that climb on to a droll slogan or idea and overstay so long as to become wearisome, such as ‘Keep Calm and …..’ or pictures depicting the ‘evolution’ of pursuits like cycling.

The best T-shirts are ones that are laugh-out-loud funny, although they only have this capability for the first sighting, like hearing a joke. Husband, whilst holidaying in Tenerife once was much taken by one that read on the front ‘The Older I Get’ and on the back ‘The Better I Was’. A recent favourite of mine was worn by a male passenger climbing on to the bus to Bridgetown, Barbados and read: ‘Six Pack-Coming Soon’.

My own T-shirt wearing is limited to plain colours except that I am guilty of wearing a New Zealand [black with a white tree-fern leaf of course] only when temperatures plummet at night and something extra is needed under the duvet [no-I am not a nightwear fan either!]

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Overdone

                When does something cool, new and edgy become tedious and boring? I’d say within moments, or as soon as it gets copied. I’ve no doubt whoever thought of the idea, creation or saying will have long moved on to more innovative thoughts, by the time the original takes off. Trends continue long past the tired level. Travelling gives you a perspective on how novelty has been eroded everywhere. Here are some of my current, personal pet yawns:

Decorated animals

                A few years ago we stopped to spend a few days in Bordeaux, en route to the West coast of France. Bordeaux is a beautiful, old, elegant city and a world heritage site, with a wide, curving river and streets lined with gorgeous edifices. It also has chic modern touches like a plateau of water spouting intermittent fountains, ideal for the warm climate. Whilst visiting this lovely place I was much taken by the cows. These were life-sized statues, dotted around in a random fashion in various poses and painted in a variety of styles and colours. One sported a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. I’d seriously never seen anything like it before.

                Now though, it seems as if no town or city can bear to be without some sort of decorated creatures littering the streets. In my own home town it is lions. I read that even Sydney, that most symbolic of modern, stylish cool, is getting ‘snails’. Why? When Sydney has such iconic and beautiful attractions?  

Knitting all over everything

                I appreciate that knitters like to have an outlet for their skills. Whatever happened to blanket squares for refugees? Or why not clothing items for charity shops? [which have struggled to compete in recession ridden times]. I fail to see how knitted sheaths enhance tree trunks or stone columns. I’m happy to see exhibitions of cleverly knitted objects in my local library, but I’m unutterably tired of seeing everything outside covered in woolly wrappers.

‘Keep Calm’ etc

                I honestly believe whoever started this one needs to be charged with crimes against sanity. Posters, mugs, aprons, tea towels-it is all a gift shop nightmare. What on earth are tat-touters going to do when this one finally dies a death? Maybe there could be a new trend of the antithesis of Keep Calm. Panic and… followed by any number of suggestions; faint? Throw up? Take valium? Binge eat?

                In starting this list I’ve deliberately kept off fashions in clothing, because once I began I’d never be able to stop-but scruffy, bum skimming denim shorts would be there alongside those jeans so low slung they all but fall down [when are they ever going away?]-

                I’m sure there are many more overdone trends and welcome suggestions-on a postcard-or in the comments section?