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Nothing Proves Your Age Quite Like Your T-Shirt Choices

It has been said that nothing proves your age quite like having to pack up and move to a new house. That may be true, but a close second is your T-shirt choices. People can tell a lot about your age just by the graphic images scrawled across your chest. T-shirts can indicate your age just by revealing your favorite band, sports team, or cultural phenomenon.

Does your closet have a selection of Deadhead T-shirts? Chances are you were born no later than the late 1960s or early seventies. A T-shirt asking, “Where’s the beef?”, suggests you were at least a preteen when Wendy’s launched an ad campaign around the slogan in 1984.

By the same token, wearing a Umai clothing anime T-shirt or sweatshirt puts you clearly in the millennial or younger generation. You are not likely to be a big anime or manga fan if you’re older than your late thirties or early forties. It is just the way things shake out.

Nirvana the Clothing Brand

Proving just how telling T-shirts are is a recent news story out of Queens, New York. According to Metal Injection, a private Modern Orthodox elementary school tweeted a message indicating that an eighth-grader at the school had been suspended indefinitely due to mistakenly thinking that Nirvana was a clothing brand.

The tweet was in jest and was meant to illustrate just how old the school’s administrators and parents really are. How so? By discussing a fictional school policy that supposedly requires children wishing to wear band name T-shirts to be able to name at least three of the band’s songs. The student in this case was wearing a Nirvana shirt. When asked to name three songs, he claimed he thought Nirvana was only a clothing brand.

Oh, the humanity of it all! That this precious eighth-grader would not know of Nirvana the rock band. Meanwhile, the tweet encouraged Gen X parents to get together to mourn the loss of such an important cultural understanding. Group healing was on the agenda.

Again, none of this was serious. But it did illustrate the point that we cling to the cultural icons of youth. The music I grew up with is still important to me, just as your youthful musical heroes are to you. Putting them on our T-shirts reveals our age.

T-Shirts As Free Speech

The original T-shirts of the 1920s and 30s were plain white. After all, T-shirts were undergarments back then. It wasn’t until the 1950s that they became acceptable as outerwear. It wasn’t until the 1960s that manufacturers began printing graphics on them. But once that happened, T-shirts became miniature billboards. They became vehicles of free speech.

History suggests that the Grateful Dead did more to start the graphic T-shirt revolution than any other cultural icon of the day. Whether or not that’s true, rock bands were among the first to make use of graphic T-shirts as marketing tools. Today, they are as commonplace as jeans and flannel shirts.

Wear Your Age Proudly

We cannot change the fact that our T-shirt choices reveal just how old we are. So rather than hiding in shame behind a Nirvana T-shirt, wear it proudly. Wear your age across your chest with all the vigor you displayed when you attended your first Nirvana concert. You have earned the right to be old and happy.

As for the younger people, let them be clueless of the cultural icons of the past. They have their own icons destined to betray their age when they get old. It is all part of the circle of life.

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