I've never been particularly fond of slogan-covered T-shirts. Basically, I've always figured that if I'm going to wear the name of some soft drink, rock group, sports team, travel destination or brand of beer on my chest, someone should pay me to do it. Just because I don't stand next to a freeway and measure 10 feet by 20 feet doesn't mean that anyone should get free advertising.
I also know a lot of people don't share that view. T-shirts are a big business, especially when there is a major event such as the Super Bowl or when the Rolling Stones go on tour. And until recently, my attitude has pretty much been that I couldn't care less what people wear emblazoned on their shirts.
The other day, that attitude began to change. I was browsing through stores in Oxnard when I came across Loco Shirts, a small store that sells custom and ready-made T-shirts. Outside the door, next to shirts with such messages as "I love Grandma" and "World's Greatest Dad," was a fresh batch of designs.
I can't print the messages carried on all the shirts, since my editor would simply turn a lot of the words into irritating little dashes. But some of the ones I can cite will give you an idea of their scope:
* A picture of Uncle Sam, blowing a missile out of his mouth at the Iraqi flag, with the words "Operation Desert Storm."
* A picture of a jet leaving the runway of a Navy ship with the message: "Good morning Saddam, this is your 5 a.m. wake-up call."
* A picture of an F-14 fighter, its guns pointed at Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is riding a camel, with the message: "I'd fly 8400 miles to smoke a camel."
* A picture of an American fighter jet flying above a map of Iraq, a mushroom cloud rising from the city of Baghdad, with this message: "Now it's Miller time."
According to the store's owner, Mark Specht, the shirts have been selling like crazy. "When Israel started getting bombed, we really sold a lot," Specht said. "We've had nothing but positive responses to them. But then, Ventura County is pretty pro-American, especially with the Navy base nearby."
I asked shoppers what they thought.
"It's a sign people are behind the troops," said Sheila DeYoung of Oxnard. "I don't think any of them are in bad taste."
"It's being patriotic, a way to support the troops," said Charissa McLain of Ventura. Other responses were basically the same.
Wait a minute. Wearing a T-shirt that shows the nuclear destruction of Iraq is being patriotic? And how does wearing one of these shirts support our troops? Does that mean that a portion of every shirt you buy goes to pay for this war?
Hardly. In our desire to bring our troops home safely, and to perhaps avoid the real issue of how painful this war is for a lot of people, the Persian Gulf War is being marketed in clothing stores in a manner similar to Super Bowl Sunday. The horror of a nuclear attack is being compared to a beer commercial.
As far as I'm concerned, if you really want to support our troops, try thinking along the lines of Sergio Cabello, manager of Jay Jacobs clothing store in Oxnard. At the beginning of January, the store put up a sign that promised a 15% discount for military personnel and their families.
"We wanted to show that we care, especially for the families who are left behind and have a lowered income," Cabello said. "It was the only way we could think of to help out."
Now that's what I call patriotic.
Ventura County is teeming with the fashionable and not so fashionable. There are trend-makers and trend-breakers. There are those with style-personal and off the rack-and those making fashion statements better left unsaid. Twice a month, we'll be taking a look at fashion in Ventura County-trends, styles and ideas-and asking you what you think. If you have a fashion problem, sighting or suggestion; if you know a fashion success or a fashion victim, let us know. We want to hear from you.