Within the framework of this blog (as well as in real life) I’ve often lamented the loss of style in the modern world. I’ve droned about hipsters, men without hats, pomades, etc. but must admit that there’s one item of casual dress that I wholeheartedly embrace: the time-honored tradition of the T-Shirt. I am such a fan that I must periodically return to my overstuffed t-shirt drawer and begin the painful process of weeding my collection of ratty, threadbare shirts. It’s horrible. I hate getting rid of my treasures. So much so that I clutch tenaciously and feverishly to at least two different favorites, and in reality there are way too many. Once as black as the darkest night, now they’re sort of light charcoal, and so theadbare and worn that when held to the light they resemble some loosely-woven mesh. Cheesecloth, maybe.
However, the field must be tilled ever so often and fresh soil risen up to the daylight. That’s what I do. I churn my shirts, so to speak, and the ones that haven’t been seen since last summer are the first to go. This process brought some old memories to mind, specifically thoughts of old t-shirt fads long gone. Today’s Realtree fad will soon fade, and hopefully those ubiquitous “KEEP CALM AND BLAH BLAH BLAH” shirts will disappear from public consciousness, at least until the great retro 2010’s craze of 2025 rolls around, at which point reproductions will fly off the shelves again. Certainly some trends will continue as they always have: throwback soda and candy logos, band tees, beer and sports teams…these will never perish from the chests of frat boys, hipsters, and concert-going blue-collar types. Ever.
The same can’t be said for these bygone relics…
Technically, these shirts were introduced in the late-80’s, but they really seemed to take off circa Spring Break 1994. Seriously, you couldn’t go to to the mall, the sports bar, or the beach without seeing some dude with a Big Johnson shirt. The whole gag consisted of thinly-veiled sexual innuendos, like “Big Johnson Surf Boards…If It Swells, Ride It!” or “Big Johnson’s Casino…Liquor Up Front, Poker In The rear!” They seem dated now, and the jokes are so stale they’re probably made of the same material as your basic M.R.E. But the catchphrases were brand-new at the time, and twenty-something bros found them hilarious. I mean, who can argue with this gem?
Hard Rock Cafe
This one makes me a bit sad. The Hard Rock Cafe still exists and seemingly thrives, most notably the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as vacation destinations such as Myrtle Beach and exotic Detroit. However, the corporation seems to be just as dedicated to spreading the good old-fashioned American rock-n-roll experience to the rest of the unwashed world, with locations in Jakarta, Angkor, and Phuket (how that never made it to a Big Johnson shirt, I’ll never know) in addition to European strongholds like Oslo and Amsterdam, because there’s nothing else to do in Amsterdam, right? Duh! The sad part is how the internet and cable television have sort of taken the mystery and adventure out of seeking out a place to get over-priced (but still pretty tasty) burgers whilst surrounded with all sorts of rock-n-roll memorabilia. I remember sitting in the New York Hard Rock (see, that even sounded cool in 1988), scarfing down a burger and Dr. Pepper, while overhead loomed the awesome, gnarly axe-shaped bass guitar of the God of Thunder himself, Gene Simmons. Nowadays, I can go on Ebay and shell out some hard-earned PayPal cash and own the sonofabitch. (The axe, not Gene Simmons, although if the price were right…) I could also order a Hard Rock t-shirt from the comfort of my living room, and never have to spend time at an airport or drive the six-plus hours to Toronto’s Skydome (that’s what they used to call Rogers Centre) to get the same exact shirt I picked up there in 1991. The excitement, the discovery, the Kerouac-like feeling of literally being on the road, going somewhere; maybe somewhere you’ve never been. The pride you felt when you pulled the shirt on and left your apartment and somebody read the words “Hard Rock Cafe Miami” and met your eyes with a look of envy and wanderlust. Those days are over. Thanks a lot, stupid fucking internet.
I must admit that I was never cool enough to own a Hypercolor t-shirt. Apparently, I was the only human in North America that walked the streets with a regular old shirt that didn’t change color when someone held their hand on it for like five minutes. For the uninitiated, the whole gimmick was due to a revolutionary dye that changed tint when it experienced a change in temperature. You’d put on a purple shirt in the coolness of your bedroom, go out to catch the bus in 80-degree weather and MOTHER OF GOD!! MY SHIRT IS NOW RUSTY ORANGE! Then they got tricky and started printing the damn things in tie-dye patterns, so it was a swirling cauldron of ambiguous chromatics, dizzying and dazzling onlookers and passers-by. “WHO IS HE?! A WEATHER-LORD OF TIME AND SPACE?!? ONE OF ELTON JOHN’S BAND MEMBERS?! YE GODS, LOOK AT HIS MAGICAL ATTIRE! BEHOLD HIS COMING!” Plus, yeah; when someone gave you a hug, you could totally see where they put their arms around you. Show-off motherfuckers, gettin’ hugs and shit. Some bullshit, right there.
I know I’m leaving some out. I decided against the brand-name trends, like United Colors of Benetton, Gotcha!, et al., because that sort of thing is in constant flux. Remember when a couple of years ago you saw FUBU everywhere? Yeah. But hey, feel free to suggest others in the comments section. Especially you youngsters that might remember stuff from the turn of the century that old guys like me sort of missed. (Those shirts Guy Fieri wears, for example.) On second thought, nobody mention Guy Fieri. The rest is fair game. And as always, thanks for reading.