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No more T-shirts

When I tire of Facebook, Shopbop and Sporcle, I often come home and take my procrastinations to my closet. There, I like to rummage through my wardrobe, searching for old clothes to donate to Goodwill. This task never proved to be overly daunting until this past weekend when I decided to skip the hanging clothes and sift through the dreaded ... (drum roll, please) ... T-shirt drawer.

In this endless abyss of cotton memories, a lifetime of T-shirts makes its home. As I carefully removed the folded stacks, I was disgusted by my accumulation. Do I belong on the TV show “Hoarders?” Or does everyone else in the Western world own this many?

I only have a few months left as a college student and after graduation, wearing T-shirts regularly is no longer socially acceptable. Based on my observations, real-world working people only wear T-shirts at night, for exercising purposes and while lounging on the weekends­. Unless you’re Nick Umbs, who currently holds the U.S. record for wearing the most T-shirts at one time—183.

And seeing as I’m not planning on challenging his title anytime soon, how’d I get so many?

I’ll tell you. Consumer society today is obsessed with the things, and my whole life I’ve been tricked into wanting them.

College visit? Buy a T-shirt!

Run a race? You get a T-shirt!

Join a club? Wear our T-shirt!

Best way to raise money? Let’s sell T-shirts!

As I pulled out the stacks of my own T-shirts, I started to realize what a strong presence T-shirts have in so many of life’s pivotal experiences.

When I got my braces on in middle school, my orthodontist handed me a bright yellow T-shirt that read, “Smiling faces wear Dr. King’s braces.” As if the free T-shirt made up for the pain and the thousands of dollars my parents spent on my metal mouth ... Tossed that baby in the Goodwill box.

When I finished the El Gigante burrito at my favorite Mexican restaurant senior year, I got a souvenir T-shirt that read, “I survived the El Gigante!” It was of course not wearable—a size XXL—and besides, did I really want to advertise the fact that I stuffed my face with refried beans and cheese? No. So, it too went in the Goodwill box.

And when I checked into the Randolph dorm freshman year, in addition to getting my DukeCard and room key, I got a, you guessed it, Duke T-shirt. Needless to say it was the first of many Duke shirts to come, but I mainly blame all you BC Plaza tablers for convincing me just to “swipe for our shirt on FLEX.” Half of my Duke T-shirt collection has now been donated.

I bet you’ve never even thought about how the T-shirt became so popular and if you have, well, then you’re procrastinations are far different from mine.

The modern T-shirt may have developed from cotton undergarments that 19th-century miners and dockworkers loading ships used to cover themselves in the heat. The trend caught on with the folks in the U.S. Navy, who issued cotton T-shirts to sailors in 1942. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, however, T-shirts became a popular form of self-expression. Today, there’s a cotton T-shirt out there for everyone: tank top, crew neck, V-neck, tall T, crop top, long sleeve, short sleeve. The styles are limitless.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good T-shirt, but there’s just no reason to have so many. In concurrence with the warm weather, my spring cleaning came early this year, and my closet is a bit more manageable. Fifty-four of Molly Lester’s gently used T-shirts went to the Goodwill this weekend.

And to all my tabling friends on the Plaza: I’ll donate the money for your cause, but please, no more T-shirts.

Molly Lester is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Tuesday.


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