Monday, 4 January 2016

White Tee Tales #1: The Colette Rave Shirt

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I've decided to do my annual revival of the blog. Hopefully (hopefully) it'll last longer that last year's attempt. The plan this time is to work on two separate tranches of stuff: first off general fashion comment and wine-addled bollocks that compresses conversations with people in the industry with various bits of reading. Second, a series on t-shirts (weirdly predicted in the last post). Maybe that sounds dull? But anyone that knows me knows I wear - and own - a helluva lot of white T-shirts. I've had some of them for years, some for mere minutes, but each one has a story behind it. As do most people's clothes really - if you think about what you have, when you bought it, why you did, and where it's been with you since then, there's pretty much guaranteed to be a story there somewhere. (If you still think this is dull btw, feel free to stop reading at any time.)

Anyway, I've just had a root through my t-shirt drawers, and dug out what I think is the oldest T there. I bought this one *looks misty-eyed into the past* in roughly 2006, from Liberty. It might have been a decade ago, but they used to have a dedicated T-shirt table (it'd probably be called a 'bar' or something similarly wanky nowadays) in the basement, in the days when the building was still linked to the store that's now Cos on Regent St. It cost me, I believe, about £35 - expensive in its day, but not beyond the realms of possibility - and it's from a label called '2K by Gingham'. Google reveals this to be 'a Japanese brand with custom shirts made in the Us featuring leading designers', bt I'm sure I didn't know that at the time.

Back in '06, I was working at Foyles, and on paydays would pop out in my lunch break and pick up something to wear to go out in. Liberty was always a favourite haunt (and remains so; my Mum has always been obsessed with the fabric department there, and I've always thought the menswear floor was expertly-curated), and this table in particular was a source of some of my favourite pieces back then.

I was drawn in by its homonym comparison of two Colettes*. One was the ridiculously trendy boutique in Paris that I'd discovered for myself while living there during my year abroad at uni; at the time it was famed for having a 'water bar' with 50 types of bottled water; the other was the 18th Century author whose scandalous, scurrilous stories of semi-fictional Parisian haute socié fascinated me, and formed a large part of my shelf of reserved books in the fiction department of Foyles. This t-shirt also has the distinctive oblong label (now washed to plain) of American Apparel, whose shirts - back in the day - industrious vendors and t-shirt artists would purchase in bulk, screenprint, and then re-sell (the same as my jazzy WoodWood sweatshirt).

I was very proud of this T. I wore it to raves, parties and festivals for years after that; something about the blissed-out faces, French text and specific references (both of which I loved and still appreciate to this day) made it something of a talking point. I don't recall a specific party I wore it to, but I do remember pairing it with the skinniest jeans ever and taking it to many trendy events in Shoreditch, in the days when one of my best mates worked for a then-nascent party machine/'magazine' called Vice. It could have been the first time I ever fell asleep on a night bus, after drinking an unbelievable amount of free black Sambuca, or that might be another night. the specifics are, unsurprisingly, lost to the mists of time. I do recall accidentally ironing over the transfer after the first wash, smudging the coral screenprint, and being mortified - luckily this later washed out.

It's accompanied me to many, many, many events since then, gradually becoming less of a party shirt and more of an everyday, layering piece. It's still in pretty good nick, aside from a small hole on the upper left chest. I'm still loath to part with it because of the Colette reference - the combination of bawdy literature, ridiculous boutiques and Francophile culture is pretty rarely seen - and even now when someone sees it and gets it, I know we'll get on.

Anyway, that's the oldest white T I have in my drawers right now. As ever, apologies for the quality of the photo - I'm a writer, not a photographer. There's plenty more white tee tales to come.

*Translation - Girl 1: "I love Colette so much!"; Girl 2: "The writer or the shop?"

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