A Cultural History

As everyone knows, the world is going to hell in a handcart. Well, probably not a handcart exactly. Probably more like a container ship or fleet of airliners. Or a fleet of container ships.

Yes, the world is going to hell in a fleet of container ships. It is the metaphorical opposite to the story of Noah’s Ark.

There are signs of this apocalyptic vision everywhere. The world has gone topsy-turvy. Leicester City won the UK Premiership at odds of thousands to one; the British political system is imploding; the best tennis player in the world has been knocked out of Wimbledon in the first round; Iceland beat England in Euro 2016 football.

All right, England being beaten at football isn’t that unusual.

But put all these upsets together and I’m expecting the Four Horsemen to request landing rights at Heathrow in the not-too-distant future.

To show how serious this situation is, just look at the decline in the quality of tee shirts.

It is not normally easy to be aware of the decline in something that most people throw away and change so often.

The tee shirt is the ultimate in clothing ephemera. Underwear is similar, but most people don’t get to see your underwear, and, if they do, they’re probably glad it’s ephemeral.

Tee shirts, however, are proudly public. They announce loudly to the world that we have been to Glastonbury, or Greece, or that we think a certain quotation is somehow the best thing anyone has ever uttered. So good we want to stretch it across our nipples; so good we will want to get another one next week.

And, really . . . as if any of us gives a shit.

So, it is with some humility, and, I hope, some irony, that I am admitting to owning a kind of ‘set’ of tee shirts, bought at times of apoplectic enthusiasm. When I have been to major international athletics events, I have bought souvenir tee shirts.

I have never been in danger of forgetting the fact that I went to see the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I can also link that event to the Scottish referendum on independence.

But the date is hazy. It has slipped into the gap between a couple of synapses.


Commonwealth Games, Manchester 2002

But wait! I have a souvenir tee shirt, and it tells me it was in 2014. And yes, I still wear it.

This is not the most shocking revelation of this post. I have a tee shirt from the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. And they were in the palindromic year of 2002. I still wear this one, too.

And this is the point. That tee shirt is still wearable after 14 years. It looks a bit grey, but the shape is still there and the message across it . . . glorious in its simplicity . . . is still almost as visible as on the day we cheered home Paula Radcliffe.


Olympic Games, London 2012

Good quality cotton, good quality printing.

The same can’t be said for the tacky and rather tired tee shirt from the London Olympics in 2012. It is looking battered and thin. The rather dubious logo of those Games, for which, I can’t help but remember every time I put it on, someone got paid a phenomenal amount of money, is looking washed out and faded.


Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014

But, when we come to the Glasgow tee shirt, I am lost for enough spleen to vent.

The logo is plastic and peeling off like chewing gum. The cotton fibres were swept off the warehouse floor.

So here is a cultural history revealed in a humble tee shirt. Here we see the abandonment of quality for profit (the later the shirt, of course, the more of a rip-off it was). Here we see the growth of the tacky logo that says nothing worth saying . . . at the very least, Olympic tee shirts should have pithy quotations from the Ancients.

But, hey, that 2002 one must be some kind of record!



About stevehobsonauthor

I am blind, and I hate it. It stinks. But life is still sweet. I have multiple sclerosis, and that stinks too, but life is still sweet. These are my musings.
This entry was posted in Exercise, Health, Sport and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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