Long gone are the days of the classic white button-down shirt. I know, I know: for some of you, it’s a hard pill to swallow, BUT it doesn’t have to be. There are so many OTHER options, more specifically, “T’s With Personality,” but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First things first. It’s no one’s fault that the preppy, oh-so-polite fashion staple has slowly unbuttoned itself in the world of “what to wear” popularity. It just did and here’s why.
In the 80’s, when the shirt was at its most popular, our window to the world consisted of only newspapers, magazines, television and radio. It was a time when celebrities still had a certain mystique, TV networks still had a stronghold on news and entertainment and fashion was shaped solely by the designing elite.
Images that peppered the landscape of pop culture consisted of a young Kate Moss straddling a half naked man (singer turned model, turned actor Mark Wahlberg,) who was pimping out underwear by provocatively wearing just a white button-down shirt and skivvies. Although, looking back at it now, he seemed to be wearing her.
Then there were all those photos of a fresh-faced John F. Kennedy Jr., smiling on a beach in The Hamptons, living the American dream, wearing his crispy white button-down shirt, opened just low enough to see the sexy side of Camelot (later, his famous fiancé turned wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, would become touted as a trendsetter, when she unconventionally wore a cuffed and collared white button-down to a red carpet Hollywood event.)
What’s more, we had a former bonafide movie star as our Commander-in-chief, one that took a lot of pride in the way he looked. Matter-of-fact, Ronald Reagan never, EVER deviated from his white button-down look. He wore it proudly, pristinely and properly, but he wasn’t the only one.
Even Michael Jackson, the most famous pop star in the world at the time, would take to the stage in a crispy white button-down. It didn’t matter that he was swiveling and gyrating his hips like a crazy person, not to mention grabbing his crotch, because he packaged it all up in a proper shirt. We definitely don’t feel the same about Miley Cyrus. I mean, if she actually covered up in a button-down, would we take her twerking and teddybear phase as a more, say, serious art form? Okay, probably not, but it may indeed help her image.
By the early 90’s, the white button-down shifted its fit, albeit slightly. Celebrities, musicians and models rolled up their sleeves, some even untucked their tales, to make the look less regal and more relaxed. It was the first time, as a society, we seemed to be out-growing the shirt that had no shelf life.
Sharon Stone would breathe new life into the trend at the 1998 Oscars, when she famously walked the red carpet in a crispy white GAP button-down. She paired it with a long lavender Vera Wang skirt. With her sleeves rolled up and her collar flipped out, she reminded the masses that something classic could still be cool. It would be short-lived, though.
By the turn of the century, the shirt that always seemed to work, just wasn’t and it slowly, quietly started to fade into the background of fashion. It would however, get one last rightful reprieve when Generation X’rs gave it another go and called it retro.
Then (dramatic pause) social media was born and the world as we knew it ‘changed’ forever (and not just metaphorically speaking.) Instead of listening, watching and wearing what we were told by a chosen few, we became enlightened by a bright, new shining window into the world. Our phones became virtual portholes into a vortex of information.
Because of social media, we expanded our knowledge, but at the same time shrunk the dubious cattle call title of ‘mass appeal.’ We (as a people) started to find out exactly where we fit in and the masses became groups and the groups became individuals and the individuals became unique unto themselves and the generic white button-down shirt became safe, boring and eventually, obsolete. Change was happening and “T’s With Personality” seemed to be the right kind of wardrobing for our new world.
In the beginning of the global technology revolution the T-Shirt company “Junk Food” served up “T’s With Personality” best. Even though the company started in the late 90’s, it didn’t really hit its stride (IMO) until the early 2000’s. At first they were known for their vintage inspired designs and quality materials, but eventually, they would fashion our new outlook on life with sassy T-shirt sayings.
Their shirts say pretty much anything and everything you can think of: Rules Are For Fools; I’m A Bad Influence; Easy Tiger; Parts Of Me Are Awesome; This Is My Lazy Shirt; Don’t Tell Me What To Do and The Future Is Now – and really, isn’t it?
As the white shirt folds itself into fashion history, it’s hard NOT to be in awe of the power, the freedom and the knowledge that social media has given us common folk. We can now be our OWN trendsetters. How liberating is that?
Instead of letting a celebrity, a TV network or a designer tell us what we want, what we should watch and what we should wear, we can simply open our phones and connect with the world. We can actually exchange our own ideas, visions and dreams with like-minded individuals. We can also seek what we’re truly interested in, not what someone ‘says’ we should be interested in.
“T’s With Personality” matches that modern ‘make it happen for yourself’ vibe. The style allows us to wear our moods, our mottos and our mishaps for the world to see, because we do indeed want to be seen as individuals, just like we want to see individuality in the world.
I love a good T-shirt. It goes with anything. You can dress it up or dress it down. One of my favorite looks is a brand new T-shirt and a pair of skinny jeans (like those pictured in this blog.) I get all my “T’s With Personality,” from Koko & Palenki. There was a time though, only “Junk Food” knew what I really wanted to say. Now, it seems everyone does and they do it with style and panache.
Look, if I see you at Starbucks in a white button-down, some faded Levi’s and some beat up converse, I’ll think you’re old-school sexy and brave enough to know what works for you and that’s really what fashion is all about. I won’t judge.
Actually, I will. I’ll wonder if you still have a flip phone, if you’re one of those people that refuses to get on twitter because you already have Facebook or better yet, I’ll wonder if you actually call a computer a machine. Changing with the times isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing and frankly, I’m glad to be apart of it.
I realize a T-shirt isn’t perfect for every situation, but for the most part, it’s a cool way to update your casual look. If you’re balking at this blog, you can send your complaints to my editor, his email is at the bottom of the screen or instead, go with a shirt to express yourself. One that says something like: “I’m not good with change,” or what about something more positive like: “Change is good.” Whatever it is, you can let “T’s With Personality” say it for you and that’s why they’re one of my favorite things.
blog wardrobe provided by www.kokopalenki.com
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photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Editor: Matthew Auerbach