There’s an episode of Seinfeld (because of course there is) when Jerry goes on a mini-tangent about his t-shirt, “Golden Boy” who has been going strong for years but is starting to fade. When Elaine suggests he take more care, soak the t-shirt in Woolite or use the gentle cycle, Jerry scoffs.
“He’s the Iron Man because he goes out there every day. Wash, spin, rinse, spin! You take that away from him, you break his spirit.”
It may seem silly, but men really do hang on to their t-shirts until they’re barely stitched together by a few threads, or have more spots with stains than are clean. Why, though?
First, a good t-shirt can be worn every day, for almost any occasion besides work. Yard stuff? Check. Sleeping? Check. Dinner at Chipotle? Yep, that, too. They’re flattering, they’re comfortable, they’re versatile, and they last for a good many years. Why wouldn’t we hang onto our favorites?
Then, there’s the sentimentality factor.
So many of our shirts have a story attached to them – where we got them, who gifted them to us, that one concert we’ll never forget for that band we unironically liked in our twenties. It can even go deeper, reminding of us not only events but of the person we were when it arrived; we’re not that person anymore, but we remember them (mostly) fondly.
James Wallman, author of Suffocation: Living More With Less And Time and How To Spend It, says he thinks the latter reason is the most compelling.
“We attach ideas to things – that’s why people like clothes that famous people once wore. We hold on to old t-shirts because they evoke memories and connect us to earlier versions of ourselves, giving us a sense of enduring identity.”
See, you didn’t even realize there was a deeper psychological reason for your hoarding, did you!?
For men, in particular, they often also have a sense of pride in their “authentically aged” t-shirts, meaning they’re worn and soft in all the right places, and not because Target manufactured them that way.
In fact, this new generation of Post-Millennials may never realize the sentimentality and dedication it once took to own a threadbare t-shirt- one you had to create for yourself over time.
One that, one day – like Seinfeld’s Golden Boy – won’t make it back from a wash. It will dissolve, blowing away like dandelion spores in the late spring, the pieces going wherever good and faithful servants disappear to when their toil is over.
It’s worth noting that in a survey, 80% of Americans across all demographics (men and women included) said they were attached to at least one t-shirt. I myself have an entire drawer full of ones I just can’t toss, even though the majority don’t fit after having kids.
Do you have the same issue? Are the reasons above your reasons? Tell us which are your favorite ones in the comments!