T-shirts are worn every day, considered by many as a basic item that brings instant modesty to every body, but they can be so much more than that. I was intrigued by the stories behind the messages, the emotional attachment we can have to a simple artefact, and the memories associated with our clothing.
I asked New York fashion label Public School co-founder Dao-Yi Chow what his favourite t-shirt was, and said “any t-shirt that is black”. But, really? Any t-shirt? I would also like a black Public School tee, but not just any old one. Great t-shirts can start conversations, and more than ever we are concerned with where our clothes come from, with good reason. Do we invest in new locally-made, breathable pure cotton, go vintage, or do we spend a mindless five bucks on a stifling polyester blend that people have had to suffer for us to wear?
The Garb Wire asked some creatives from around the world to share their favourite tees.
Lisa Mitchell, Singer/Songwriter, Australia
This is a Deftones band t-shirt, which I bought more for the Mother Mary symbol than anything else. I have written many songs about ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe,’ as the South Americans refer to her as, or some say, ‘Our Lady in Red.’ Mary also simply means, ‘mother’. I am not religious at all, although I deeply resonate with this unconditionally loving archetype, who loves all, no matter what they have and haven’t done.
Anthony Jarvis, Stylist, Australia
Here’s a tee that I’d wanted to make for years. I finally did it. It’ll be a sad day when he goes, but I’ll be wearing it loud and proud. #mydesign
Luke Austin-Paglialonga, Photographer, The Shady Beau, Los Angeles
This is my Dad’s shirt from, I’m guessing, the 70s? It’s the only vintage tee that I have that hasn’t fallen apart over the years. Now that I’m really buff it’s kinda gotten too tight to wear.
Jodee Knowles, Visual Artist, Australia
I found this shirt in a dark alley way one fateful night and haven’t taken it off since. I believe it is haunted.
Thom Stewart, Bass player, Methyl Ethel, Australia
This shirt taught me everything I know about intimacy. Perhaps we are not so different from the reptiles after all?
“The origins of this tee are unknown to me because I borrowed it from a friend a few years ago and keep ‘forgetting’ to return it. I guess you could say it’s become a part of me.
The appeal comes from the fact that from afar, it looks like an innocent cartoon reminiscent of the familiar characters from Rocko’s Modern Life – “Look mum, the cute lizards on that boy’s t-shirt are wrestling each other!”. Under closer inspection, however, it is an educational chart detailing the minute intricacies of crocodilian intercourse, an important topic which I believe is not discussed often enough.
To top it all off, the caption “Makin’ Handbags” is flat-out hilarious. It is the only novelty shirt I’ve owned that’s still funny after a few wears. Usually, the joke dies after the first wash.
Wayne Latham, Creative Director, Australia
This Trovata tee is my fave. It was a gift from a (married) lover many years ago. The tee certainly outlasted him. It was purchased in LA at Fred Segal, and it came with a small French Flag enamel badge. I was furious at the time, because I had wanted a vintage Fleetwood Mac tour tee and this was the alternate gift when FM was unavail. I love it because the color is easy to wear with denim. And the graphic is interesting – it’s a turn of the century sitting room salon – the detail is unlike anything that was around then – or now! If only I could remember that lover’s name….
Kerry Lennon, Visual Artist, Australia
“I bought it early 2000’s in New Zealand from a small boutique, and because I cut it up to create an artwork, I lost the shirt label. The quote, of course, is the lyric from Mel & Kim’s song Respectable. It’s my favourite because it reminds me of the times in the 80s, when I used to bust dance moves in the lounge. It’s now been repurposed to my lounge room wall – so it’s kinda gone full circle.”
Reuben Negron, Contemporary Artist, Asheville, North Carolina
Reuben Negron is best known for his highly detailed, figurative watercolor paintings. Negron’s work explores the psychology of his subjects, focusing on identity, sexuality and personal narrative.
“I always make my fashion choices (if I can call them that) based on comfort. I’ve had this t-shirt for more than 8 years; it’s older than my daughter and has the holes to prove it. I’m not ready to part with it yet and I don’t imagine I will be for quite some time.”
Jeremy Neale, Guitar/Vocalist, Jeremy Neale (the band), Australia
My favourite t-shirt is my Donny Benet ‘Sophisticated Lover’ one. I must’ve bought it online in mid 2k12 after becoming aware of his brilliance. Since then Donny has become a friend and a mentor, so the tee always reminds me to keep my music and my life sophisticated at all times. It’s got a couple of holes in it so I can no longer wear it to black tie events but it still gets a run at most semi-formal and business casual occasions.
Hayley Callander, Stylist, Australian living in New York
“I got this from an amazing woman who owns a vintage store in Paris. She dresses Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and Johnny Depp. She just gave me a Metallica oversize muscle tee to style with my 1930’s french kimono.”
The Garb Wire
Left: Melissa Ogier, Co-founder & Editor, thegarbwire.com
“I got this shirt in the 90s when I worked at Shock Records. It was a promo for a Frank Black album, given to me by one of the original label managers. The message gets funnier the older I get, which is not very old, so you know.”
Right: Tania Ogier, Contributor & QLD Correspondent, thegarbwire.com
“This beauty was purchased off the rack from Handsome Steve’s House of Refreshment, made by the fair hand of Steve Miller himself. It’s a fairly young shirt, as far as most of my t-shirts go. About 2 years old. I love it because I love Steve – it captures the very point where our senses of humour collide. And it contains a cuss word.”
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