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.
Within the vast array of shirts that have found a home in the David F. Walker Museum of Decorative Clothing and Accessories (which includes not just t-shirts, but underwear, hats, socks and a collection of novelty thongs I will never wear), there are tons of band shirts and promotional giveaways for a variety of films. In some cases, like with the band Fishbone, I have multiple designs. But the one thing that I have more of than anything else is Batman shirts.
I am sad to say that I no longer have the oldest of my Batman shirts, which dates back approximately 44 years. That particular shirt was simply an old, beat-up undershirt that was once white, but was so dingy it almost looked gray. I took a Batman sticker, and stuck it on the chest, making it my first-ever Batman shirt. I don’t know what happened to that beloved shirt, although I suspect it ceased to exist as soon as it went through the wash. I was probably about 5 years-old when I made that shirt, which served as a testimony to my life-long devotion to the Caped Crusader. I was a huge fan of the live-action Batman television series starring Adam West, which was still in syndication when I was a kid, and the first comic book my mother ever bought me was a Batman title (which I still have to this day).
The top shirt is my second-oldest Batman shirt. I got this either in high school or shortly thereafter, along with the other two pictured above. This was several years before the Tim Burton-directed Batman film came out, so finding shirts with the character on it was pretty hard to do. I got these shirts at one of those weird gift shops that sells dirty greeting cards and fart spray. All three shirts are 50/50 cotton/polyester blends (which I hate), so I never really wore them that often. Still, both shirts brought me a sense of comfort.
This next shirt date back to when Burton’s Batman film came out. There was a massive blitz of Batman merchandise that came out in the months leading up to that film, and even more stuff after the film was a big hit. Although all of the merchandising made me a bit sick to stomach, as I saw it as the whoring of my childhood hero, I was also happy to get my hands on some cool shit. I’m pretty sure that this particular shirt was a present from some friends. I think Brian Wisely and Tony Kimple bought this one for me, but I can’t be sure. If it wasn’t them, and it was someone else reading this, I apologize. But the fact of the matter is that this is not only my favorite shirt in the Batman Collection, but also my favorite of all the Batman shirts I have ever seen. I love the design, and I always liked the fact that to the best of my knowledge the image was not something that had been recycled from a comic book cover.
This next shirt takes its design from Frank Miller’s vision of Batman. I thought the shirt was cool, because of the way the design worked its way into the shoulders. The reverse side of the shirt has the same image, and that always bothered me. I got this shirt from a different little gift shop that sold dirty cards and fart spray. I worked at this particular shop for quite some time in 1989. I was one of those silly pointless jobs, but I loved it. My boss was this great lady, who let me basically run the place. Hardly anyone came in during the week, except to buy cigarettes or the newspaper, so most of my time was spent listening to music, reading books, or hanging out with my friends.
This final shirt is an example of the more esoteric Batman designs we started to see once Burton’s film came out in 1989. I have absolutely no recollection of where this particular shirt came from, but I’m pretty sure my mother got me this one. She says she didn’t get it for me. Maybe I stole it. I think the design is kind of cool, but as I recall, there were people too stupid to know what it was, and I got tired of idiots asking me, “What’s that shirt mean?”
Stay tuned for The Batman Collection #2 in a future installment of T-Shirt Confidential.