Thursday, August 8, 2013

When T-shirts Unite

In her world-famous tell-all Confessions of a Literary Dork, Mary mentioned that the love of literacy is not the easiest thing to put on a t-shirt.  It got me thinking.  When Mary dons her I Heart Atticus or Reading Diva shirt, the kids notice.  They talk about it and ask where they can buy their own.  (Okay, not the Reading Diva shirt.  But a surprising number of 8th graders would happily sport a Harper Lee character on their back.)  So why not put our literary love on a t-shirt?  What are the benefits of wearing our passion on our sleeves - literally?
United and well-dressed
We've all been there.  Traveling out of state, we don a Red Sox hat or Patriots jersey and voila!  Our affiliation and adoration are effortlessly communicated to others.  My boyfriend recently wore an Alabama shirt on a day trip and was happily surprised when, over the course of the day, at least three passersby smiled, waved, and called "Roll Tide!"  How cool is that?  (The same thing happens when I wear my "got Kwan?" hoodie.)   Total strangers reach out, extending a hand and maybe an opinion about the upcoming season.  A connection is made; a conversation is started.  That is the power of t-shirts.  And why should sports teams and athletes get to hog the spotlight?  We literary dorks need to flaunt our loyalties, too!

As we neared the end of our unexpected journey with The Hobbit this past spring, we decided to do just that.  Gandalf once again said yes to our brilliant idea (and request for funding) and a few weeks later, we had boxes of 100% cotton unification sitting in the office.  Our school secretary was so delighted that she called the lunch room to tell us they had arrived.  The excitement was contagious.

Our visiting author Christopher Golden commented on the "awesome shirts."
In an effort to create unity, we decided to go with our school colors.  The front of the shirt displayed the name of our school, year, and title of the book.  The back boasted a super cool dragon and an extensively debated and well-vetted quote (seriously, we could only pick ONE?!) from The Hobbit.

"I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure..."  - J.R.R. Tolkien

For our last after-school activity, we asked each of our teacher volunteers to wear the new shirt.  When the kids entered the gymnasium, we were accosted with:

"Oh man - those are so cool!"
"I want one!"
"Do we get shirts?" 

Teachers in their Tolkien tees
Since we love a surprise ending and are a wee bit dramatic, we lied through our teeth and told them no.  An hour later, they erupted in cheers when we revealed the boxes.

As I readied the gym for the Gollum Slalom (you had to be there,) Mary took over t-shirt distribution duty across the hall.   

She never told them to put them on.  They just did.  Watching nearly two hundred middle schoolers tromping back to the gym in their new shirts (quoting Tolkien!) is something we will not soon forget.     

These shirts had power.  Students and teachers were proud to wear them.  It gave the kids a chance to belong, to connect with other students, and to announce their accomplishment to the world.  After all, only participants received a shirt.  The kids must have liked them, because every day after at least a few Hobbits roamed the halls in their finest Shire attire.  If either Mary or I were drained or frustrated or just plain exhausted, all we had to do was walk into the hallway for a little inspiration.  Months later, the novelty had yet to wear off. 

We got your back.
Just this past weekend, we were engaged in a little pre-season planning at Panera when we noticed one of our favorite students walk through the door.  As we waited for her to turn around and hug her squee-ing teachers, Mary whispered, "Oh! She's wearing her Hobbit shirt." 

Mary @mzcotillo & Erin @allinoleary


  1. I used to get mad props with my BPRD logo t-shirt. It's like finding a kindred spirit, also engaged in a secret war against the Ogdru Jahad. :)

    Really liking your blog! Keep writing you crazy reading ladies!

  2. Not gonna lie...totally had to Google BPRD.

    I love that you a) used the phrase "mad props," b) understand the idea of kindred spirits, and c) are enjoying the blog.

    Erin, I think he's "one of us."

  3. Gym workout attires in very reasonable tank top,muscle shirts,sleeveless shirts all brands all in very sensible price just go and grape your gym gear Visit Us

  4. I am first time visiting your blog and believe me I thoroughly enjoyed it. Remember the days when I used to have crazy things written on my tees. Keep posting