The other day, I saw a teenager in the supermarket with a t-shirt that said, ‘When I’m God, Everyone Dies.’ I wondered what made him pick it out at the shop and decide that he wanted to buy it, that he wanted this slogan to represent him in public.  Does he hate the world and wish we would die? Was he just being ironic? (There’s nothing indicating irony in the design.) Or did he not particularly think about it? Later, a google search revealed it’s a line from the Marilyn Manson song, “The Reflecting God”. Which doesn’t really answer the questions.

What does it mean to wear a t-shirt with a message?

For a time in my early twenties, I would nearly only wear t-shirts with messages. I was a billboard of anti-war and anti-capitalism messages as well as bands I liked. It showed the world what kind of person I was, I suppose. Maybe I thought it would also convert some people.

I don’t have too many t-shirts-with-messages. I have a Clash t-shirt, but that’s an accident, because I didn’t pack enough clothes for my honeymoon and when we got to Christchurch on a Sunday, it was the best option from the markets. I feel dishonest, as these days I don’t listen to the Clash, as the very low play count of their songs on my itunes will prove.

I didn’t consciously turn away from t-shirts-with-messages. But these days I’d rather be more anonymous. Maybe it’s a part of being old.

I should be understanding of people who do wear t-shirts-with-messages. But many of them are disturbing. Not usually in the way of the ‘When I’m God…’ example. More often in their banality. What does it mean to wear a t-shirt saying, ‘I can only please one person per day. Today isn’t your day…and tomorrow don’t look good either’?  There’s quite a few of these kind of t-shirts with a standing joke, often postured slightly against the world or against women, or against men. I can understand a t-shirt promoting a cause, or a band, but what do these do? Is this as close to an ideology as a certain kind of person goes? Perhaps people are actually wearing their philosophy of life and they just wanted to share it with us. I don’t know.