Don't Wear Shirts That Say Things


Everything is stupid, and so are we. Welcome to Jezebel’s Stupidest Summer Ever, a season-long celebration of our worst, most idiotic thoughts and opinions.

A couple months ago, I visited my older brother in Denver. It was colder there than I expected it to be, so, on the second day of my trip, I popped into a local gift shop to buy some much needed layers. Inside, I spied a neon coral long-sleeve tee with the word “COLORADO” emblazoned across the back of it in teal. The shirt also featured various Centennial State iconography, like a teal and indigo mountain range symbolizing the Rocky Mountains and the red and yellow “C” from the state’s flag. I liked this shirt a lot, so I bought it and proceeded to wear it almost weekly after my trip. But then, about a month later, Kanye West released a line of brightly colored, long-sleeve shirts that say “WYOMING” on them to promote his latest album, ye. Lest I be mistaken for an expired hypebeast wannabe, I retired Ms. “COLORADO” Coral to the great indoors.

You might be thinking to yourself, This is stupid. Just wear the shirt. And I agree: It is stupid. But I’m also the kind of stupid bitch who’d wear a shirt that says something and then spend all day worrying about whether the something my shirt says is something I’d say, much less something I have any business saying even if I can.

Let’s say I kept wearing my “COLORADO” shirt in the wake of Kanye’s Jackson Hole listening party. Walking down the street, I might wonder if the Pratt student crossing my path thinks I look desperate and old. Once in the Jezebel office, I might waste an entire day of work stressing over whether Wyoming native and ye merch anti-stan Julianne Escobedo Shepherd thinks I look wack and/or poseur-adjacent. If I don’t wear the shirt, then I won’t waste any time wondering if I should’ve worn the shirt and I’ll free myself up to focus on things I actually care about. Not wearing the shirt is an investment in my time, which is an investment in myself. Why spend all day worrying what someone might think about me wearing a shirt that yells “COLORADO” in all caps? I don’t even like Colorado that much. I mean, I don’t not like Colorado, but really I just liked the shirt and seeing my brother. It’s not that deep, so why spiral to the depths of my stupidest anxieties when I could just choose to be less stupid, Kondo this polyester-blend baby to the back of my closet, and live my life?

This example illustrates a self-imposed style rule that I’ve tried and often failed to follow for the past 10 years or so: Don’t wear shirts that say things. Does the shirt say things? Great. Don’t buy it. If you don’t buy it, then you won’t wear it, and if you don’t wear it, you won’t waste any time worrying whether or not you should be wearing it in the first place.

This rule is also a good one to follow if your problem isn’t that you’re too self-critical but that maybe you’re not self-critical enough. If you don’t wear shirts that say things, then you won’t wear a bunch of Feminist™ t-shirts that scream your politics, or at least the ones you’d like to claim in public, in the place of actually doing something or interrogating where you stand with respect to those beliefs in private. If you don’t wear shirts that say things, then you won’t inadvertently line the pockets of some sexist entrepreneur who exploited feminism’s social capital for his own financial gain. If you don’t wear shirts that say things, then I won’t end up making fun of your well-intentioned “TRANS IS BEAUTIFUL” t-shirt in my group chat. Please. Help me stop being such a bitch. Help me. Help yourself. Don’t wear shirts that say things.

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