The teacher informed us we’d be giving a speech on a topic of our choice. Wide open.
Hmmm… I wondered, what would I choose to talk about?
This was my sophomore year in college and, well, I could have talked about literally anything.
For some reason I chose t-shirts. The every day garb we take for granted, the global phenomena that started gaining ground in the late 19th century. Here’s a fun article of background.
What I do recall is that once I’d chosen the topic, I rounded up my props: oh, great closet of humble means, what can you share with me for my presentation? (remember, I’m in college – humble it was)
Fast forward to my first years of public school teaching middle school art in a very rural district. I loved the teaching and I loved dressing the part. For me, dressing as a professional teacher meant dressier clothes – said another way: no t-shirts or jeans (never jeans).
So when I bought a tee for myself that really moved me, I felt compelled to wear it to school. Breaking my own rule in essence.
What was on the t-shirt that I felt so compelled to share?
“Nobody’s born a bigot” was the text below a picture of two small children embracing each other, different skin colors, HUGE grins and glee in their smiling faces.
Fast forward again to right now. In working with one of my coaching clients who designs tee-shirts and helps his clients get thoughtful goods (read: carefully sourced, gentler on the planet) tee’s for their own endeavors, my teaching tee memory sprang to mind.
What’s in a tee? More specifically, why do we wear the tee shirts we wear? To what end and purpose? What are we saying via fabric on our bodies? What are we promoting, communicating? Or are we simply (sometimes) simply throwing on what’s closest on our way into our days?
It’s compelling to think about why we wear what we wear. It’s compelling because there’s usually something we are trying to communicate: a connection to others, starting with some part of our beliefs. We’re seeking to connect with another person who can also identify with what’s literally on our sleeve (or chest or back).
Clothing connects us.
That’s why I wore that tee-shirt. To connect, to communicate, to share something I believed in that I felt was powerfully useful to my students and colleagues.
What are you wearing that tells people you want to connect with them?