It's been with me through good days, bad days, and the ones so ordinary you end up forgetting about them altogether. My favourite shirt has seen them all.
I remember the first time I saw it. I was flipping through Truck Progression Magazine, October 2001. I, like many of us, was trying to find my way through the post 9/11 haze that we all found ourselves in. I needed a shakeup. My wardrobe was drab. No one ever looked at me, negatively or positively. No one seemed to see me at all. I merely existed, and had I not noticed myself, I would have failed to exist at all.
Far from the glossy spreads of powerful trucks colliding with pits of mud, the t-shirts offered on that cheap newsprint in the back pages began to pique my interest: hardline confederate flags and Black Sabbath logos dotted the pages, but this wasn't the “new me.” I wasn't going to be a bigot or some overly nostalgic rock fan; I was going to be something new. Something shocking.
I turned the page—and there it was. The beginning of the new me: horror character Leatherface, donning a mask made of human skin, holding his trademark chainsaw in his right hand while brandishing the middle finger on his left.
I placed the order the next day.
Weeks passed, but I didn't watch the mailbox or wait for the delivery man with bated breath. I was already different. I was already wearing the t-shirt inside. I was Leatherface, flipping the bird wherever I went. Things began to change for me. I spoke with confidence. I unconsciously demanded eye contact, and people couldn't help but make and keep it.
One afternoon at the mall, I was asked to attend a test screening for Blue Crush. I was no longer fighting to exist. I was thriving.
One afternoon I arrived home from a very important meeting to find a package on my front step.
It was time—no more theories.
I tore open the parcel. I slipped the shirt onto my body, and I actualized. Yet there is a cost for wearing such an excellent t-shirt. I became the lone wolf. With the garment came the derision. The stares. The whispers. There were no more limousines, meetings, or eye contact. There was me and the shirt.
“Do you have to wear it every day?” Some would ask me.
“Yes. Yes, I do. It's my favourite shirt,” I would reply
You could say, and some have, that the shirt has made my life harder. As though it's an unnecessary obstacle to employment, respect, and co-mingling. But what they don't understand is: what is a shirt if it is not worn? To exist to sit in a dark closet or a drawer. To hear the world going on around them but to be shut away. That's not the life for my favourite shirt.
Yes, the funerals have been awkward. The job interviews have not been favourable. Suit and tie? Business casual? I think the Leatherface on my t-shirt will let you know what I think about them. I was forced to see movies like everyone else—without giving any notes at the end at like some kind of everyday loser.
It is still in impeccable condition. The care. The responsibility. The weight of being the caretaker for such a garment is its own reward. This shirt is my lifeline to my youth because no one leaves this world in immaculate condition.
The people around me are not like t-shirts. Friends, family, colleagues. Their stains are on the inside. Their wear and tear don't show under the armpits or on the hems but on their faces. And soon enough, when they are faded and worn out, their graphics cracked and peeling, they are taken away to a big donation bin in the sky.
But my favourite shirt survives.
Unstained. Untorn. If you didn't know better, you would say that it has never been worn. Yes, it is rarely laundered, yes, but that’s what the “Jefe” sized can of Axe Cool Fire bodyspray is for. But here is my favorite shirt, tucked into my jeans, khakis, or dress pants at every milestone for the past 20 years. It has seen many enter and leave our lives, and barring some miracle, it will see many more.
So every day, I open the closet and pull my favourite shirt off of its hanger and slip it on. Just like I did yesterday. Just like I will tomorrow. Just like I will for all the ones so ordinary that you end up forgetting about them altogether.
“Fuck you and fuck this,” says the Leatherface on my t-shirt.