A T-Shirt That Tells a Story

It's less about what it says, or where you got it — and more about where you wore it along the way

The Badlands? Always good for a story.

Like many guys who write about men’s style, I’m a recovering sneaker junkie. From 2002-2007, my daily uniform consisted of skinny jeans, Nike Vandals and T-shirts. Lots and lots of T-shirts. But the streetwear logos and slogans that typically adorned the tees that went alongside said sneakers didn’t interest me (nor did the baggy jeans). From a young age, my tastes skewed towards the sentimental. It all started with a T-shirt that my high-flying grandmother brought back from a European vacation when I was nine. It was white, with a green and red print on the front that formed a symmetrical, birds-eye-view of the Tuileries Gardens. And it was enormous. Thinking back now, it was probably Paris’ answer to the I HEART NY tee, purchased from one of those street vendors on Rue de Rivoli. But for me, it was the very height of sophistication. I wore it for 15 years — until it actually fit properly — through countless style evolutions, apartments, and international moves, and it formed the cornerstone for many a favorite outfit.

A good decade in, the cotton started wearing thin, but in the best possible way. It became sheer-white, almost see-through, and it fit as well as a favorite pair of jeans you do some serious, serious groundwork in. At the 13- or 14-year point, the edges of the print gave way, and perfectly straight, horizontal and vertical cuts started appearing all over the front. I proceeded with caution, but it’s difficult to gingerly wear a garment that’s traveled the world and back with you. I wore it the first time I attended Paris Fashion Week. I met Usher in it, at the Comme des Garcons show, the day after Michael Jackson died. I walked the Tuileries in it, and rued the fact I didn’t have a friend on-hand to take the historic meta-photo.

Soon after that Paris trip, my beloved shirt gave in, and split the whole way down the front. It was the end of an era. My Tuileries tee still hangs in my closet wherever I’m living — these days in the East Village — as a reminder of days long gone, when life was simpler and Paris Fashion Week trips always resulted in analogy-ready celebrity encounters.

And I’m not the only one who’s passed through the Gilt ranks with a T-shirt in their past, either. Take a tour through GQ’s My Prize Possession slideshow and you’ll find Gilt Man vets Jared Flint and Mimi Fukuyoshi showing off their own beloved tees (featuring the Houston Astros and Bob Seger, respectively). The moral of the story? Next time you do something significant, buy a T-shirt to celebrate. Oh, and never, ever throw it away.

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