Where Have All The T-Shirts Gone?

There was a time, when I ran in high school, that the middle drawer of my dresser was burgeoning with t-shirts. It seemed that every weekend that there was a track meet, or a cross country race I’d come home with a new shirt to add to my collection. Some shirts were more important than others – the ones from state meets, or collared sleeves. Most of them were white, but a few came in black, or my favorite, maroon. It even came to a point one time that I made a pile of the most boring non-dated, white shirts and brought them down to the local Good Will.

Some of my favorites: home made tie-dye, my maroon job, and the dearly departed Yale shirt.

Some of my favorites: home made tie-dye, my maroon job, and the dearly departed Yale shirt.

The same held true in college, but less so. I had some sweet shirts from my team, but there weren’t as many ‘t-shirt awards’ or it seemed, shirts being given out. Though signing up for a local road race would certainly add to your collection. Perhaps it was this overwhelming abundance of sleeveless derivations of undershirts that led me to my undeniably awesome fashion sense; why buy a shirt when I have a free one that will get the same job done? And so it is that a decade after college, and I’m still wearing t-shirts gleaned from some sort of running event.

Unfortunately, my middle drawer is no longer the flourishing utopia of t-shirts it once was. This is in part due to the eight years I stayed away from running and all it’s events, but also because I have worn many of my favorites threadbare. Just yesterday night I was taking off my favorite Yale Invitational t-shirt from 2001, and one of the tiny moth-holes turned into a gigantic rip rendering the shirt useless but all a rag.

While the age of my t-shirts may be a problem, the true issue at hand is that the shirts are simply not being replaced, and not for a lack of running. Since I started running again 4/5 years ago, I’ve entered a number of races from 5ks to a 100 miler, and pretty much all of them have given out a shirt. There have been a couple of cotton tee’s ready to be worn, but it would seem that there is a bigger problem: the virulent introduction of the tech-tee.

Best tech-t ever - Manchester City Marathon, and two gigantic screen printed jobs.

Best tech-t ever – Manchester City Marathon, and two gigantic screen printed jobs.

After running through 34 degree rain with a long sleeve cotton tee on top of a regular tee and having my nipples nearly rubbed off, I know the benefits of a tech-tee (I also learned the benefits of taping). However, it would seem that the majority of tech-tees are not designed with the runner in mind and are more a ‘perk’ of signing up for a given race. I have more than enough tech-tee’s with gigantic screen printed logos across the chest. All the sweat wicking technology that went into the tech-tee is rendered useless when three-quarters of the front is covered in some sort of logo. Not to mention a giant screen printed logo just adds to the chaffing these shirts are supposed to limit. That is not to say all tech-tee’s are garbage for running. I have a couple that are top notch – the true problem is, these are unwearable as generic tees to be coupled with shorts and flip flops.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but something about wearing a tech-tee and shorts screams “Look at this race I ran!” which is not something I really care to do. A generic, cotton, t-shirt from a race doesn’t scream the same thing to me; rather it says in a much more subtle way “I wear free clothes because I’m that cheap and I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think,” which is much more in my line of thinking.

So please race directors, nix the tech-tees. We have enough. Go back to the good old cotton t-shirt. I’m running out of clothes.

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7 thoughts on “Where Have All The T-Shirts Gone?

  1. Love this! I too have a collection of running tees from high school as does my husband. My cross country team loves when I rock vintage ones for the races we’re about to run. I’m with you on the tech tees; so many of them are cheap and tacky that they are an almost instant addition to the donation pile. I, for one, vote for the resurgence of the race sock trend!

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  2. I actually am with you on nixing the tech shirts. Go back to the classic cotton shirts!

    I was a race director for two years for a half-marathon, 10K and 5K in Omaha on Thanksgiving and we chose to go to the long sleeve cotton shirts because (one it was cold, two it was cheaper, three: you can wear it in normal clothes, compared to a tech shirt.)

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  3. This is so spot on – I love it. Not only that, I had my mom make me a blanket out of some of my old (old, old) shirts and it’s great – but she can’t do it with the tech shirts. The 50K I ran last week had a cotton t, and a nice one at that. Probably the only one that I’ll get all year :/ Bring back the cotton t-shirt!

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  4. Spot on. I’m wearing a red, pilled race tech-tee to work today – it’s too thick to run in. However, I’m cheap, it’s “Red Friday” in Kansas City, and I don’t own a Chiefs shirt. Another one of my tech-tees has a logo bigger than a Captain America shield on the front. Useless. Plus tech-tees are stinkier – you have to be wary about casual wear. I have enough of them now that I’ve been checking the “women’s small” box at races now and giving them to my wife.

    On the other hand, I seem to have the opposite problem with tees of all types these days – I’m at a stage at my life where people seem to be handing me a t-shirt for everything. I got two while volunteering at a summer camp. Apparently I was not politely equivocal enough about not really wanting one as parent supporter of my son’s soccer team. I’m pretty sure the next time someone goes out for coffee they’re going to come back with a t-shirt for me and ask for $15.

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