Spring complicates some areas of life (yard work, house cleaning) but greatly simplifies others: for me, wardrobe choices.
After this seasonal cold snap (sometimes even before), I can put on a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals and not have to seek out different clothes until around Labor Day. The only downside of this wonderful freedom? A nasty plot by clothing manufacturers to pass off winter T-shirts as summer ones. I call it the Terrible T-Conspiracy. As anybody who lives in the South knows, the whole point of summertime clothes is to be as thin as possible.
And yet, all the T-shirt ads still brag about their “Beefy Ts!” and “Tough Ts!” and “Quality Ts!” and never offer old-fashioned T-shirts that are cheap and thread-shy enough to let a breeze waft through on a hot day.
(One solution, of course, is to not wear a shirt at all. But seeing as it’s been some 25 years since I was last eye to eye with a Nautilus machine, I’m sufficiently community-minded not to inflict my topless self on the neighborhood.)
As a result, the only way I can get a decent summer T-shirt nowadays is to break a new one in — by months of wearing and washing, until it reaches that perfect point of thin, breezy comfort before it starts sprouting holes. I’ve only got two Ts now that fit this criteria, and one of them is on its last legs. Uh, last sleeves.
I’ve only found two ways to speed up the breaking-in (or rather, wearing-down) process. One is to wash a T repeatedly on the heavy-duty cycle with detergents that have a skull-and-crossbones on the label, but this wastes water, electricity and dangerous chemicals, so I try to avoid it when possible.
The other way is to buy only T-shirts that have one sleeve in the grave to begin with — i.e., off-brands that are sold in back-roads convenience stores for a couple of bucks and whose tags show they were made in countries that most world atlases have never heard of. The trick is to buy an XXXL size if possible, because they shrink magnificently on first washing and lose enough dye to choke a laboratory mouse. At which point they don’t look so great, but they’re thin enough to give summer breezes a fighting chance, and that’s what counts.
If I were an optimist (zero chance, with us Scots-Irish) I would imagine that there are millions of old guys around the broiling Deep South with my same T-shirt problem, and that some young entrepreneur has found that need and is working to fill it, with a new line of apparel called something like “Lo-Quali-T,” and the slogan “They’re so thin they’re almost falling apart to begin with!” Unfortunately, that’s not the way advertising mentality works. When’s the last time you saw an ad for a product that’s not bigger, badder, thicker and meaner than the competition?
So alas, I’ll just keep homemaking my Almost Threadbare-Ts the same as usual and enjoying the cool breezes that manage to sweep through on the hottest of days. It’s a little extra trouble, but the finished product suits me to a T.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, books, photos and radio features are available on his website carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.