Branded but bland
Why have we stopped making statements through our T-shirts?
People all over the world announce their worldview through their T-shirts, but, alas, not us. At least not any more.
IT'S EVENING in the city. Dudes in jeans stroll along, engrossed in their takeaway coffees, colas, popcorn and boiled peanuts. Strains of the latest hit song from a still-to-be-released (ha! ha!) Hindi film fill the air.
Most couples wear the casual but smart look branded jeans paired with T-shirts. But wait, isn't there something missing? The T-shirts are all blank, except for the distinctive logos of various brand names.
Take a walk through our city's lanes and streets and you'll see what I mean. T-shirts now come branded or just plain bland. Most don't even display a sense of humour. Why don't they say anything any more? Have we lost the art of saying meaningful or mischievous stuff through our clothes?
Something to talk about
Cast your mind back a little, people have always had something to talk about. In the 1960s, there was Vietnam, anti-war protests, the race to the moon, the flower children, Elvis and the Beatles, rock-and-roll and Woodstock. In short, a lot of stuff to write about.
In the 1970s, disco and soft rock happened. So, that went on the T-shirts too.
In the 1980s, a French scientist discovered HIV and Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters died of anorexia nervosa. Camcorders also burst into the market. Naturally, there were plentiful joys and sorrows for people to mull over.
In the 1990s, there was Monica Lewinsky. DVDs became hot property. The Internet grew huge. For us in India, there was Enron, liberalisation and privatisation to deride and decry.
What's been happening in the decade that started with the year 2000? Dotcoms have come and gone; so have the slogans about them. Even the cult-favourite `anti-globalisation' phrase creates hardly any ripples (forget T-shirt doodles) now. Everyone wears the same `globally-renowned' clothes and shoes, drinks the same soft drinks and eats the same-sized burgers.
But why don't people make their own slogans? Murali, a media executive, is frank: "In my job, I hardly wear T-shirts. Most of the readymade ones anyway don't say anything outstanding. So, it's just easier to pick up a known brand."
Call centres and Ts
There is, however, a new trend in town. We have it on good authority that people working in call centres get T-shirts (and caps and cell phone pouches) as incentives if they handle more calls per hour. So, if you do walk into a call centre, you'll probably see kids lounging around in T-shirts that say things like `I Keep It Short And Sweet' or `I Fixed Them'. You do get the gist, don't you?
All is not lost, however. In a sea of sameness, there are a few originals here and there. Recently I saw a chap wearing a T-shirt that screamed `Exploited!' And on Anna Salai two guys were spotted whose Ts weren't outstanding, but different. One said: "Punker: Free To Public". His pal's shirt said: "Erase Racism".
Long ago, a friend spotted a gutsy girl striding along with the message, "I Made An Old Man Happy". Still, the funniest slogan I've seen so far has been this one: "No Job, No Girlfriend, No Problem."
I spotted it on a shirt in a dingy shop.
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