T-Shirt Confidential #5

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

People think I’m exaggerating when I tell them that I have so many t-shirts that if I were to wear a different one each day of the week I could go for over a year without wearing the same t-shirt twice. In fact, the entire idea for T-Shirt Confidential (originally T-Shirt of the Week) started as I was trying to clean out my closet and get rid of old t-shirts. It seemed like every t-shirt had a story attached, and thereby some kind of weird sentimental value. Back in 2007, I couldn’t get rid of any of these t-shirts, but since then, I’ve unloaded well over one hundred (and I still have hundreds more).

This particular shirt is an example of what I mean by there being “weird sentimental value” attached to many of my shirts. It also speaks of my odd “addiction” to t-shirts (that’s a story for another time).

I got this Malcolm X shirt in Los Angeles back in 1997. I was living in LA at the time, working on my blaxploitation documentary, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, & Shafted. Even though I was working on my film, by and large it was a very unpleasant time in my life. I was really broke at the time, almost all of my money went to food or gas for the car, and as a consequence I almost never went out.

At that time I had gotten to know Leon Mobley, who was the original percussionist for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. We met when he played in Portland, and was looking to score some herb. This was back when no one but his mama knew who Ben Harper was, and you could see him and the band in smaller venues without a bunch of smelly hippies doing their stupid Grateful Dead dance.

The back of the shirt. For the most part, I don’t like designs on the back of a shirt.

Leon was also on the PBS series Zoom back in the 1970s when he was a kid. For a while I was talking to Leon about doing music for the documentary. He had invited me out to some of the only cultural events I attended while in LA, including the Malcolm X Festival where I bought this shirt. I don’t remember where the festival was, I just remember it was on a Saturday, it was hot, and I was hungry and broke. For the most part I was living off credit cards in those days (a BIG mistake) and I seldom had cash on me. I remember that I got to the festival, and I was really hungry. I only had a little bit of cash—just enough to get this t-shirt or get some food, but not both. Obviously, I bought the shirt.

This is one of several Malcolm X t-shirts in my collection, and at some point I’ll post stories about those. But of all the Malcolm X shirts, this is the one with the most interesting story.What is funny—and by “funny” I mean pathetic—is that I had never worn this shirt. I’ve had the thing in my collection for over twenty—TWENTY YEARS!!!—and I have never worn it! How do I know this? Well, I have a really big head, so big in fact that it stretches out the neck of every t-shirt I have ever worn. The neck on this t-shirt has never been stretched out—it is still a virgin. And knowing that it has never been worn, somehow makes the story more interesting…at least to me. Someday I may wear it – though I need to lose at least fifty pounds. But even if I don’t wear it, it will forever be a part of the story of my life.

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