CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
When it comes to t-shirt printing, it's best to go for a 100% cotton shirt. Polos are usually a polycotton mix, but t-shirts tend to be a bit itchy if you go for that. In 1978, there wasn't quite as much choice. If I recall correctly, a lot of them generated enough static electricity to power your house, as well as making you scratch the top layer of your skin off. This beauty had so little in the way of natural fibres, it was practically as un-earthly as the Death Star itself:
I loved that t-shirt. It wasn't new when the photo was taken, hence the transfer on the front being fairly faded. Due to the industrial-fibre nature of the shirt itself, it wore extremely well. I have no idea where it lies now, but it's due to bio-degrade shortly after the destruction of the Earth. From what I gather, it was official merchandise, as opposed to the shedloads of knockoff stuff that was around at the time. It probably came from either Durham or Newcastle, as the majority of my SW merch did. Rather than print and distribute entire shirts, iron-on transfers were the modus operandi in the late 1970's. That said, it was quite normal to buy a printed shirt, but you know the transfer had been applied in the UK, once they'd hit the wholesalers and been snapped up by resellers who owned a t-shirt press.
As far as I recall, that was the only Star Wars t-shirt I had as a kid. I'm not giving you a tale-of-woe there, it's just a fact. It's an odd fact, considering how obsessed I've become with t-shirts in my adult life (I use that term loosely), but maybe that's part of it. As a child, I was spoiled rotten with toys, and clothes weren't something I really pestered my parents for. As a grown-up, I can have as many t-shirts as I like (and I have). I still spoil myself rotten with SW toys, but that's another blog entry.
There's something comfortably open-ended about collecting t-shirts. With the Kenner/Hasbro figures, or with soundtracks and DVDs, there'll only ever be a fixed amount released. With shirts, who knows how many there are? Even so far as the official ones, there have probably been thousands of different designs produced down the years. Even if you were only to collect Vader themed shirts, there's no way you'd be able to keep track of what's being released in different countries by the various licensees. I've got a few books on SW collecting, and even they only brush up against the subject. Convention-exclusives, and staff/crew shirts for the movies get mentioned, as well as noteable promo-items but not your domestic releases.
So it's quite nice to have an excuse to not be the rabid I-need-them-all type collector that so many of us SW fans are. To hunt-down and buy items based on their aesthetic merit, rather than the fact that "they're on sale". There's no way you're going to get all of them - there just isn't - so just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you see a shirt you like, go for it. I'm aware that to non-collectors, this viewpoint seems so normal it barely needs explaining, but trust me, George Lucas started something big when he put pictures of all the available figures on the cardbacks in 1978. The phrase "Collect them all!" was taken as an instruction, not a suggestion.
You'd also think that having a good friend with a t-shirt printing shop, and a history in graphic design, I'd go nuts and have a new SW shirt for every day of the year. If anything, it's pushed me towards that aesthetic viewpoint. There are a lot of shirts that I see and don't buy, purely because I think 'I can do better than that myself'. Likewise, many ideas for shirts float through my head and don't seem cool enough to put on a shirt, probably because they've already been done.
Back in 1995, the design company I worked for moved from an industrial unit to a retail outlet. An actual shop, with the actual public coming in and out. One of the things we were promoting was personalised mousemats, as PCs in the home were gaining affordability and popularity. A guy came in and had three pictures of The X-Files made into separate mousemats. When he was asked why he was having three of an item you usually only need one of (in those days anyway), he replied: "I collect X-Files mousemats". A logical enough answer, you might think, but when the door's opened and you can have whatever you want, where do you stop? How many variations could you come up with before you regain sight of why you're collecting in the first place? So with that in mind, a fair percentage of my Star Wars shirts are customs, but they're because I was happy with the way the design looked on the shirt, not just "because I could".
If you've followed this blog for a while, or you know me from Twitter/Facebook, you'll know that last year I started a sporadic project; #StarWarsTshirtFriday. If you get a chance to wear a t-shirt on a Friday (dress-down day at work, pub on Friday night), and you have a SW shirt, wear it, and take a photo. It's that simple really. If you've got one or two SW shirts, it might not seem like much of a fuss. If you've got more than 20? Much fun to be had.
Click on the image to go to the full Facebook album.
Which sort of bring me full circle, really. The photo at the start of the post was unearthed by my mum, going through the family archives. I'd hoped something like it existed, just because I remember having the shirt. I didn't get the chance to include it in #SWTSF, and now I can.
#StarWarsTshirtFriday has come back home.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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