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.
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.
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.