I was in a parking lot getting into my car as a lady was getting into hers next to mine. She was wearing a Dwyane Wade Miami Heat T-shirt. For some of my readers who may live far away, like in the Philippines, Dwyane Wade is a big star on the professional basketball team representing the city of Miami, Florida. Clothing with a team’s or a player’s name on it is popular leisure attire for many Americans. It is basically an outgrowth of our culture’s obsession with sports.
Sports apparel is a universal in this country—it cuts through age, sex, religion and race. An enormous number of people have a favorite team or a player they worship and they wear their names or resemblances proudly just about anywhere on their bodies, be it on a T-shirt, pajamas or even underwear. While there are loyalty barriers among fans of each team or player, there are no social barriers to expressing your favoritism across your chest. All sports fans relate to that and there is a kind of mutual respect for displaying your dedication.
I tried to imagine what it must be like to be Dwyane Wade when he is out and about and regularly seeing his name plastered on the backs, fronts and sides of other bodies everywhere he goes. If one has a big ego, I suppose this could be quite a kick. However, if one is as humble as I am (sometimes misconstrued as poor self-esteem), then I suppose it could be almost embarrassing.
After seeing the lady wearing the Dwayne Wade T-shirt, I got to wondering why is it that it’s mostly the names of sports entities that usually adorn American leisurewear? True, I’ve seen lots of concert shirts so rock bands are popular too, but not nearly so. And, true again, fashion designers love to put their names on their products–Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Bahama, Calvin Klein, Coco Chanel and so on. But their motivation is more economically driven and buyers are okay with that since it feeds their need for self-satisfaction in wearing over-priced clothing and making sure others notice.
The motivation to buy an article of clothing with a football team’s or a baseball player’s name on it, I think, is a little different. The wearer wants to show he or she is a good fan and that the team or player represents a positive role model deserving respect and admiration. Then too, wearing the name is one way a commoner can role play and share in all the fame and glory. It personalizes that identity and, again, ensures others will notice.
I just went through my closet and looked in my drawers. Nope, I don’t own one thing that has a team or player name on it. Oh, yeah, I do have that shirt from my alma mater that I’m wearing in the picture above. But that’s tied to the school itself as much as its athletic endeavors. I also have one other item with something scribbled on it. It’s an old T-shirt my son gave me. On the front is a drawing of Snoopy the dog prone on a couch and the caption above him reads “Non-Athletic Dad.” My main retirement attirement is a pair of shorts, a very plain T-shirt and sandals. I like sports, but I am certainly not a ravenous fan. See that guy in the Lions shirt over there? No, that’s not me.
But what if you are some other kind of enthusiast whose passions are aroused by people who don’t kick a ball, swing a bat or run like hell? Let’s say you hero-worship different kinds of high achievers…like maybe, famous writers. Would you wear a shirt with the name Hemingway on the back, or Steel, Robbins, Seuss, Rowling, Dickens or Austen? Or what if you were totally into fine cuisine? Would you wrap your torso with Child, Deen, Beard or Flay? And how about painters? Would you wear Picasso, Van Gogh or Homer on your sweatpants?
Perhaps I’ve hit a hidden vein here, a golden one. Maybe I should start manufacturing shorts and shirts with famous names on them other than sports figures or rock stars. Maybe fans of all these other genres would be delighted to run out and buy a Steve Spielberg cap or an Art Miller scarf. I’ll have to look into this a little more. Imagine, I could become a famous clothing designer with an exclusive line that showcases society’s big-name artistic celebrities past and present. Why, maybe even some day I might actually wear a T-shirt with my name on the back. Gives me chills.
Marc Kuhn is the author of two children’s books: NEVER GOOSE A MOOSE…And a bunch of other things you should never do!; and ABOUT A FARM. Also, just published is an adult historical novel, THE POPE’S STONE.
All three books are available at amazon.com and each has its own .com website under its title.