Ode to the race shirt

You don’t just take home an experience from competitions, whatever kind it may be. You take home the official T-shirt, which, from that moment on, stops being a useful garment for a specific event and begins a new life, which I call “philosophical.”

I was thinking about this when I saw a girl during a hike in the mountains: she was wearing a We Own The Night T-shirt, an event Nike did for a few years in Milan when May was starting to get hot. It was run at night and is the one Chiara Ferragni is wearing in the cover photo. So: no, this piece is not about Ferragni, I used an image of her to contextualize the topic and make it clear what shirt that girl was wearing.

Philosophy what?

Why do I call the second life of T-shirts “philosophical”? Because it exceeds that of pure utility. It is clear that their function is preserved: they continue to be garments that are used for the specific purpose of going running or walking in the mountains. Yet T-shirts in general (and those inherited from a few races in particular) mean very different things to each of us. First, unlike other garments, tees often carry messages: through writing or graphics they say a lot about the person who owns and wears them. They can be political or social messages or graphics that communicate a worldview or, more simply, something we like. However, if there is anything that speaks eloquently in people’s clothing, it is undoubtedly T-shirts.

The superpower

In the large category of T-shirts, there is a particular subcategory consisting of those from the races. And these have one more superpower than just T-shirts: they are time machines.
There was a beautiful movie about wine. To be more precise, it was about two friends’ trip around California wineries on the pretext of drinking and socializing, even though it was ultimately about the meaning of life. It was called “Sideways – Traveling with Jack.” At a certain point, one of them uncorks a bottle and says that for him wine is a kind of time machine, that every time he smells the scents release after taking the cork off he thinks about what day it was when they bottled it, what the weather was like, who bottled it, etc.
The wine then stores in a controlled atmosphere the day it was bottled and releases it the day it is uncorked.
We all can activate memory in different ways. Sometimes just listening to a song or smelling a perfume is enough, sometimes memories come back to the surface for no apparent reason.

Other times a T-shirt makes us relive them, because when we see it in our closet or wear it, for a few moments we take a trip down memory lane and remember that day.
Why do we remember it? Because it is unique. No other t-shirt has this power because everyone has their favorite and has worn it a thousand times, so it doesn’t remind them of a particular day, or not always.
The race shirt, on the other hand, remains the same over time: it is the one you raced in on that particular day, and by wearing it you can relive it and measure what has changed in you since then. This is why race shirts are time machines but also have the philosophical power to make you reflect on time past and, ultimately, on life.


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