Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm With Stupid

An ad appearing in today’s SJ-R pictures a “Vote for Pedro” T-shirt that is on sale at the Springfield Famous-Barr, a clear indication that it is no longer hip to wear fashions based on the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

The haute couture world of novelty T-shirts is a contemptible one where hot designs turn cold overnight. By the time a particular T-shirt hits major retail outlets here in flyover country, it’s safe to assume that its hipness factor has been depleted.

Napoleon Dynamite was released on June 11, 2004. According to prevailing cultural trends as dictated by NY/LA fashionistas, a person would have had to purchase and wear a Pedro T-shirt no later than Labor Day of that year to be considered at the vanguard of coolness. It could have been worn unironically throughout the movie’s theatrical run, but by the time it hit DVD in December, a hep cat in good standing would have had to delegate the shirt to workout or sleep wear.

Even among those that never aspire to make a fashion statement, novelty T-shirts have a notoriously short half-life. “I shot J.R.” shirts enjoyed brief popularity, but were considered déclassé long before Kristen was revealed as the shooter. Likewise, owners of “Big Dog” shirts shed them for good even before shearing the tails from their hair and shelving those horrible Zubas (which, coincidently, make an appearance in Napoleon Dynamite as marshal arts attire.)

For those who simply must purchase a “Pedro” shirt during F-B’s Super Sale, they should at least have the good taste to hang onto it until the inevitable retro period kicks in and it is once again acceptable to wear.

Currently making a comeback are those risqué-for-their-time “Co-ed Naked Volleyball (or whatever)” T-shirts that young people in the 90s made ubiquitous while announcing to the world that they were both a little bit sporty, and a little bit spice. Of course, this type of sexual innuendo is considered quaint compared to some of the T-shirts marketed today that boldly announce the wearer’s availability, proclivity, and dexterity in this regard.

A new craze, but one that will probably quickly fade now that Newsweek is reporting on it, is the celebrity-as-cause T-shirt. It started with the “Free Winona” (Ryder) shirts back when the only righteous Heather was up against shoplifting charges*. Today, people are displaying their humanitarian side by wearing T-shirts with messages such as “Free Katy”, from that lunatic scientologist Tom Cruise, and “Feed Lindsay”, lest the Herbie starlet waste away to nothing.

Some shirts endure the changing tide. R. Crumb’s classic “Keep on Truckin’” design is still adorning T-shirts, finding favor among fans of trend-averse musical artists like Beck. Andy Warhol’s famous banana design for the "Velvet Underground and Nico" album is still an avant-garde fashion statement, and the classic “CBGB” black T sold by the legendary New York rock club has weathered the years much better than their favorite sons, the Ramones.

I’ve never actively solicited comments to a post before, but I’d like to buck that trend by asking what your favorite T-shirt of all time is or was. Mine is one featuring the cover of the Replacement’s “Let it Be” album that I made almost 15 years ago while working at Primo Designs. The white shirt has yellowed rather nicely over the years, but it is relatively hole free and I still wear it from time to time when I don’t want to be mistaken for a middle-aged father of four.

That’s my favorite T-shirt, what’s yours?**

And another thing...
I came across this article in the Tribune as I was finishing this post, which means that BlogFreeSpringfield was this-close to scooping a major city daily on a totally insignificant puff piece.

*It’s believed that the “Free Winona” concept was itself lifted from a little-heard song entitled “Free James Brown” by the seminal Chicago band, the Hardy Boys.

**To be read with full Jack Connors inflection.


upright said...

The "College" t-shirt that Belushi wore in Animal House. Also -- sung to the tune of "Barbara Ann" --the "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran" t-shirt from a few years back!

alexis said...

did you hear that Napoleon is now going to be in a reality show? i saw it the other day on

Dave said...

The Primo incomplete "Homicide" accompanied by the oulined dead body was always an eyecatcher back in the day.

Jim said...

Correction, Dan: it's not Jack Connors inflection.

"That's our opinion, what's yours?" is the copyrighted property of my former boss, one-time WMAY general manager Tom Kushak.

Credit where credit is due.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

My bad. Did Connors have a little tag that he used?

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I remember the Homicide shirts. Some forensics group ordered them. The back of the shirt read "When your day ends, our day begins."