I am not ashamed to say that I have become a t-shirt snob. Maybe admitting so is to my detriment, but it is what it is. I am no longer contented to buy old t-shirts from the thrift store, t-shirts other people thought were cool 10 years ago. I buy new these days. Not only that, but I am also pretty choosy about what I spend money on.
It wasn’t always this way. I used to be willing to throw on the first thing I pulled out of the drawer. I was happy shopping at discount department stores where the bargain racks offered dirt cheap t-shirts. But things have changed. I blame ecommerce. It has forever changed my perception of the humble t-shirt.
Back In the Day
Just to clarify, I am in my mid-fifties. Back in the day, there was no internet. There was no ecommerce. That may make me a dinosaur to the younger crowd, but we all have to grow old sometime. I just happen to be getting older at a time when ecommerce is as normal as breathing.
Without the internet and ecommerce, my choices for buying t-shirts were limited. As a teenager, I had three options:
- Buy my t-shirts from the department store
- Head to the t-shirt store in the mall
- Wait to buy my t-shirts at a rock concert or sporting event.
The t-shirt store at the mall was where all the cool kids bought their tees. I quickly discovered that they were the rich kids, too. At least that was my perception. My parents could not afford the more expensive t-shirts from the mall. They could barely afford department store shirts. That is why we shopped at the thrift store so often.
T-shirts As an Adult
Well, I eventually grew up and became an adult. The internet still wasn’t a thing then, so my t-shirt choices pretty much remained unchanged. The one difference is that I had my own money. I could afford mall t-shirts. About the same time though, retail sporting goods became the hottest trend. Sporting good stores started selling t-shirts and sweatshirts branded with the logos of professional leagues and teams.
Even so, there were only a few stores in town that offered the specialty t-shirts I wanted. The big box department stores’ inventory never kept pace. As a result, the price disparities between department stores and specialty stores were rather pronounced. But then it happened: the internet arrived.
T-shirts in the Ecommerce Era
With the introduction of the public internet came ecommerce. It was game over for mall t-shirt stores that had to charge higher prices to cover their obscene rents. Online sellers could compete with big box department stores, leaving the specialty stores and boutiques fighting for the scraps.
The modern internet has only helped t-shirt sellers expand even further. Thanks to ecommerce, there are all sorts of specialty brands – like New York’s Plurawl brand. Plurawl might not have made it without the ecommerce model to rely on. There are just too many sellers pitching t-shirts in the Big Apple.
As for me, I can be a lot more choosy about my t-shirt purchases because ecommerce gives me access to so many different sellers. I don’t have to settle for just any t-shirt off the rack. I can stick with my favorite brands. I can search the internet landscape to find t-shirts with a particular message. It is all out there.
Ecommerce has changed the t-shirt game. I’m glad it has. It has also changed my perception of one of the most fundamental pieces of clothing history has ever known.