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October 24, 2016
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Shirted to a T

One of my contributions to the Dlympics Event List was the diabetes-related shirt collection. (I deliberately included shirts other than T-shirts, since some of us get Red Rider cycling jerseys or other diabetes-association-branded tops through participation in major diabetes fundraising events.) Still, it must be noted that while I've laid out money for dress shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts, it's been the very rare occasion that I've purchased a T-shirt in over twenty years and I have more T-shirts than all other types of top put together.


Most of my T-shirts fall into one of four categories: diabetes-related T-shirts, STARFLEET T-shirts, event T-shirts, and swag T-shirts. Some, like my JDRF walk T-shirts, fall into two of these categories. A few of my T-shirts are work T-shirts, given away by my employers at the time, occasionally intended to be worn at work, but more often, to increase brand awareness away from work.


Event T-shirts are generally given out day-of-event, to identify participants or volunteers, or to recognize that a participant has completed the event. Each year, I get a new T-shirt and Amateur Radio hat for the New York City Marathon, which I am expected to wear visibly for the entire event. (This usually means wearing a Nike Pro or UnderArmour Cold Gear shirt beneath the T-shirt.) While The Other Half gets his Tour de Cure Volunteer T-shirt before the start of the event, I get my participant T-shirt upon checking back in after finishing my ride. These T-shirts are cherished as proof of participation in prestige events, or as identification with a particular cause. I wear them to show off recent participation, and also to drawing awareness to an upcoming event -- especially one for which I am fundraising.


Swag T-shirts are given out by exhibitors at trade shows. They are strictly for advertising a company's name or latest product. The availability of swag T-shirts at a show will depend on the particular industry, the intended audience, and the exhibitors. Some are easy to get, and may be literally tossed at passers-by. Others require sitting through a presentation (or slipping in towards the end of the presentation and filling out a form). Still others require a demonstration of knowledge about the product, the company, or the industry, and some good fortune in being able to catch the shirt being lobbed at you from the stage. Generally speaking, the harder it is to get a swag T-shirt, the more prestigious it is within the community. Still, there have been periods of time where I would accumulate a half-dozen swag T-shirts which didn't fit me, or which I couldn't fit in my dresser. Some of these I passed on to friends who needed "disposable" T-shirts for work; others I passed on to computer club colleagues. Few of these T-shirts have any "cool" value -- those that do represent top brands, or brands and products to which I am loyal. But as brands change, companies are acquired, and new versions of products are announced, even these may lose that value. Many of these T-shirts become my "work around the house" T-shirts, used when I'm doing something that gets messy or sweaty, or my workout T-shirts when I have a gym membership.


That leaves the few T-shirts I've actually purchased. Those include my STARFLEET shirts and a few of my diabetes-related shirts. All of these were purchased either to identify with a group (STARFLEET or my chapter, the USS AVENGER), to support a community (such as Diabetic Rockstar), or -- in a very few occasions -- to identify with a group while remaining brand-neutral (in particular, my Five Humans diabetes-awareness T-shirts). I purchased those in 2009, before doing a presentation on diabetes communities for which I needed to remian "vendor neutral" to both the communities in which I'm active, and those of which I am not a member. Sadly, Five Humans has closed shop, but when I wear their T-shirts, their vision lives on.


While I never set out to deliberately collect T-shirts, or to choose accumulation over purchase, my wardrobe contains dozens of them, suited to a number of different occasions. Which is why I titled this post, "Shirted to a T"...

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