When I came home from my recent Back to School tour of NCAA tournament campuses with a suitcase bulging full of college T-shirts, sweatshirts and baseball caps, my wife hit the roof. She could accept my living in fraternities and staying in sororities for three weeks. She endured the photos of drunk women kissing me spread over the Internet. She put up with me coming home sick and still smelling of alcohol.
But more T-shirts? That was too much.
My wife gets this way each year when she's in a spring cleaning mood. She's long since given up trying to get me to throw out my collection of Sports Illustrateds, but she has her heart set on paring down the T-shirts and freeing up some room in the closet.
The ''discussions'' usually go something like this:
"I'm getting tired of all these T-shirts. Why do you need so many? You don't even wear them anymore.''
Yes, I do.
"What about this one?''
Hey, that's my 1981 Astros giveaway Nolan Ryan T-shirt! I bet I haven't worn that since college. No, wait. Actually, that's an old Mariners T-shirt. It just looks like one of those Houston rainbow jerseys because of all the mustard, barbecue and sweat stains.
|Calling all T-shirts|
|Hey! What's your most-prized T-shirt? Send us a picture (the older, the better) and check back with us next week as we present our virtual fashion show.|
So, all right. Maybe she has a point. I have way too many T-shirts. I'm the Imelda Marcos of T-shirts. I have a rack full of silk ties but I can't wear any of them because I don't have a shirt with a collar. Well, at least not a clean one.
And it's true, I haven't worn most of the T-shirts for years. Some I haven't had on since Tony Gwynn wore a medium. A few I've never worn. Some have shrunk so much from repeated washings (why is it that men can never learn not to put cotton shirts in the dryer?) while my stomach has grown so much from repeated cheeseburgers that even the XL T-shirts don't fit anymore. And some of the underarms bear such horrid stains that you would think I sweat urine from my armpits.
But none of that matters. Just as women can never have enough shoes, men can never have enough T-shirts.
Wives always miss the point. T-shirts aren't clothing, they're history. They aren't about the fashion, they're about the memories. It isn't how the shirt makes you look when you wear it, it's how it makes you feel when you pull it over your head and all the memories from the game come flooding back so intensely that you can smell the beer you spilled as you leapt to your feet when Edgar Martinez hit his grand slam against the Yankees during Game 4 of the 1995 division series.
Or maybe that's just because the T-shirt hasn't been washed since then.
And who cares whether the T-shirt fits or not anymore? Old T-shirts aren't meant to be worn, they're meant to be carefully preserved on a rack inside plastic like suede coats hanging at the dry cleaners in your own personal Hall of Fame.
Ah yes. My gray Sosa Lumber Co. T-shirt. This dates back to late August, 1998. Worn only three times before being permanently retired.
Besides, my wife should be happy one of my editors figures he has around 200 T-shirts. His wife recently suggested two rules: Either he has to throw out one old T-shirt for every new one he buys or, for every three he buys, she gets to buy a pair of shoes. I think they're calling in a federal mediator to settle it.
Another editor, after listening to his wife complain about his T-shirts, calmly replied that she was right and he would be sure to clean out his closet while she was mowing the lawn.
(Yes, he's reasonably confident that the divorce lawyers will let him keep the T-shirts.)
Still another editor suggested that the proper reply is, "Look at it this way, honey. We'll just have to move into a bigger house, one with stainless steel appliances.'' Yeah, sure. It sounds good in theory, but that approach didn't work for Bill Gates, either.
Honestly, Bill. You're the richest man in the world can't you at least get rid of your "COMDEX 1992'' T-shirt?