It’s a tan shirt with a nice graphic on it.
A distressed brown square with some wavy lines and a sun-like orb in the upper corner. Almost a surfing feel to it.
I swear – this could have been something that I wore as a kid. Now, I’m rocking it as a Dad in his 40s, and still look good!
As I was photographing the shirt for this story, I couldn’t stop thinking about those shirts that made a mark in my memory.
Many of the t-shirts from my 20s and 30s had a different feel, ones I bought myself, or won or were given for being in a group… cast t-shirts from plays, softball tee-shirts, shirts from concerts with friends and so on. Those became an amazing quilt my wife made me before we were dating.
But some very specific shirt memories from my youth, fought their way to the front of my brain when I unwrapped last month’s shirt.
I have a very vivid memory of walking through a clothing store at the old Hawley Lane Mall by the house I grew up in. There, on a center pole, in the middle of the aisle, was a display of t-shirts with The Simpsons on it. This wasn’t a mass-produced one, like they have now with their cult-like catchphrases or whathaveyou (they’d only been on TV a short time then, not the THIRTY year old show it is now).
This one was simple – the Simpson family on a white t-shirt. There are posing for a photo on the front, everyone is smiling, Homer says “Say Cheese” and Bart has got his fingers in his mouth and making a rude face.
Turn the shirt over and it’s a framed version of the shot – Homer choking Bart (as usual), Maggie and Lisa now making the silly faces and Marge horrified by it all.
A little crude, but funny and I had to have it. I also had to convince my mother.
You see, Mom was great at protecting us from things that didn’t match the people she wanted us to be. She loved that we grew up watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, but didn’t approve of Woody Woodpecker’s rude antics or how many guns they used on G.I. Joe. And she certainly didn’t think The Simpsons were role models for her boys.
Ya know what? She bought me that t-shirt. She trusted me. And BOY OH BOY did I wear that proudly. My friends thought it was cool and really, in middle school, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Later on in Middle School – as an eighth grader – I bought (yeah, Mom was realllly cool by now) a Guns N Roses tshirt. The logo from Appetite For Destruction emblazoned on the front.
I had longer locks of blond hair then and, although I was rocking it in the ‘gifted program’ class room – I still felt bad ass!
One day, sitting at the table at lunch, a kid across from me asked me how I had the right to wear that shirt. I was just a poser to him. He asked me to name three songs on the album.
I looked at him, straightened up in my chair and said “which side”? Remember kids, we had cassettes back then.
He was taken a back, and then puffed up his chest and said – go ahead, name any on side B.
So, I looked at my friend next time, turned back to the other guy across the table and let a sly smirk appear on my face. My eyebrows lowered, my nose flared a bit, I took a breath and said: “My Michelle, Think About You, Sweet Child O’ Mine, You’re Crazy, Anything Goes and Rocket Queen”.
Jerky McJerkface was stunned. I knocked him back a bit. He said “whatever” (a real strong comeback). As he turned back to his cafeteria French fries, inside I was celebrating.
You see, what he didn’t know, was that my little brother and the kid who lived across the street, and I used to BE Guns N Roses in my basement. I had buckets for drums and frisbees on sticks as cymbals for my make-shift drumset, my brother played the electric tennis racket and Mikey B from across the street was our neighborhood Axl Rose singing into a hairbrush.
We would ‘act out’ playing every song on this album. And the earlier album – Lies, too. I didn’t just know every song on the tape, I knew every word – AND every downbeat and cymbal hit.
Yeah, I wasn’t poser.
In the early 90s I found myself in love with theater. My first show was a musical called The Music Man. I was enamored with every bit of the process. Learning the lines, learning the harmonies. Learning the blocking. Building the sets. And making new friends.
In 1990, surf gear was very popular. The brand Ocean Pacific was everywhere, as was the brand Hobie. The teals, pinks and light blues of the surfer world made up my wardrobe.
I’ve never stepped on a surfboard, and as anyone who has read our site, or listened to earlier stories knows – I don’t like the beach. So, yeah, this was definitely a poser moment. But I liked the color and that the brands were popular.
I remember standing on the stage, ready to paint some sets with the gang in the show, when one of the older kids came up to me, to have a little fun at my expense. Clear as crystal, I remember that I was rocking a Hobie catamaran shirt on that day.
This Neanderthal decided to make some off-color remarks about Hobie really meaning Homie which, in turn, really meant Homo. Took a while for this knucklehead to get to the joke, but he eventually did.
The best part? No one laughed. This guy was trying to make me the butt of his joke, but in the end, he was noticing that no one wanted to be in on it. My new friends of the theater were happy to back me up on this. I had found my tribe.
You see, this was theater. Now, although I wasn’t offended, and as a naïve 15-year old, barely understood what he was getting at – my guess is a good number of the guys around me took some serious offense to the jokes he was making.
I wonder what this dipstick is doing these days – hopefully his mind has caught up with times.
You see, memories can be stirred by so many different things. Sounds, music, smells, tastes, people… and yeah, clothes.
Thanks to Daren Thomas Magee who designed June’s graphic tee for Wohven.com’s subscription delivery. He brought me back some really cool memories that mean a lot more than just a tshirt!
Well, that’s my story. Thanks for reading!
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