I stopped wearing the t-shirt about a year ago. Not because I had outgrown it or because I didn’t like it anymore. Because I was afraid that I was beginning to wear it to shreds. It’s the first article of clothing that I’ve stopped wearing well before I was ready to – most of my favourites I wear until they quite literally fall apart. It’s also something I never thought I would do. Why own something that you love if you aren’t going to wear it? It’s the reason why I never understood spending exorbitant amounts of money on a wedding dress or otherwise buying things that you will definitely only wear once. The things hanging in your closet don’t show their full potential until they’re worn out and about. So why did I retire this shirt?
I found the t-shirt at the back of my mother’s closet when I was still pretty young. Maybe ten or eleven. It was dark grey with a mostly white speckled print of a leopard and it’s cub. Or is that a panther? I don’t know why my mom never really wore it and I don’t know where she got it. I just know that I dug it out and claimed it as my own. It was huge. At first I wore it as a nightgown. It was long enough to be a dress and continued to be even after I passed the 5”9 mark. In first year university I wore it over tights or knotted it at my hips with jeans and hoodies. In my later university years I got it hemmed so that it just covered my butt and I rolled the sleeves like a tough guy. For my first office job I wore it under blazers and jackets with silver necklaces or I spent the weekend in my beginning-to-fade oversized t-shirt. I saw a small hole near the crew neck seam about a year and a half ago and began to notice the relatively threadbare quality of a t-shirt that had gotten thinner and more comfortable with every wash. I told myself I would only wear it once in a while.
And then I just stopped wearing it. It’s not even in the same drawer as my other t-shirts. It’s in the back of my closet, much like how I originally found it. I’m not sure of my strong attachment to this t-shirt. Its comfort and versatility are obvious, but I have plenty of other t-shirts that fit that description. It may have something to do with the fact that I’ve had it the longest. That I found it instead of bought it. That it once belonged to my mom. That I like the pattern and have never seen another t-shirt quite like it. That it was my go-to comfort piece that made me feel cool and collected and me for so many years.
I pulled it from the back of my closet and hung it up so that I could look at it as I wrote this. I realize now that I’ve pulled it out, I can’t quite put it back until I figure out what to do with it next. Since I won’t start wearing it again – for fear of ruining it – I’m thinking of hanging it in plain view, or even framing it. Adding it to the décor of my apartment. Because it is of course much more than a t-shirt. It’s part of my history.