The tuxedo t-shirt is a popular, if mysterious, article of clothing. Upon trying to find the actual history of this classic trashy/classy ensemble I hit dead end after dead end. Where did it come from? Who designed it? Who invested in it? I can’t answer any of these questions, and it seems to me that the internet can’t either. What I’m proposing to you now is a speculative history of the tuxedo t-shirt, or how I think it might have happened. The following is a work of fiction, but until some brave scholar or detective unearths the actual truth this might be as close as we’re ever going to get to a real answer.
The year was 1956; the place was Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Joe Collins had been managing a garment factory for the last five years, and he was finally starting to turn a profit. Joe was a lumberjack before his time in the clothing industry, and he brought all of the tenacity, practicality and ruggedness of a seasoned woodsman to his new trade. The good quality and cheap prices of Joe’s product was the talk of the town, and eventually investors came knocking on his door. A man named Oliver Bosworth would change Joe’s life forever.
Soon enough, the factory had been purchased for a hefty sum by Bosworth and Joe became wealthy. Much to his chagrin, Joe was now expected to have dinner with the company that bought out his factory and that rubbed him the wrong way. He’d never eaten dinner with rich people before and he didn’t even own a necktie! He didn’t think he could ever fit in among wealthy people, and he wallowed in doubt for two whole days before snapping out of his self-induced funk. Harnessing all the might, nobility and ferocity of the forest, Joe convinced himself to buy his first tuxedo. He found that he looked good in the fancy suit, which gave him the confidence to tackle the elegant dinner.
Joe was mingling with the elite, drinking a $3 beer (that was expensive for 1956!) and feeling like he was on top of the world. In fact, he’d never felt so good. Unfortunately for Joe, his luck would not enjoy a long life. Without any warning, a massive grizzly bear broke through the wall. Joe, being a seasoned woodsman and bear pugilist, knew how to deal with unruly bears—but he’d never fought one while wearing a tuxedo! The battle was long and costly. Several plates of hors d’oeuvres were dumped onto the floor during the scuffle and a lady’s dress got ruined. Joe just didn’t have the mobility he needed to defeat the bear in a timely manner. Though he was victorious in the end, the party was all but ruined. Joe hung his head in shame and went back home.
Years went by and Joe thought about the tuxedo and his fight with the bear every day. He loved the fancy feeling of wearing a tuxedo, but he had vowed to never wear one again. After all, he’d almost lost a fistfight with a grizzly bear and that was a serious affront to his lumberjack code of honor. One sunny day in August, Joe was sitting in his truck and listening to a Merle Haggard song on the radio when an idea hit him—what if he combined the classiness of a tuxedo with the mobility and fighting stamina of a t-shirt? Joe borrowed a sewing machine from his neighbor and came up with a working model.
Joe was still considerably wealthy, so it was not difficult for him to find an invitation to another rich person’s dinner party. Clad in the armor of his prototype tuxedo t-shirt, he felt like he was ready for anything the night might throw at him. He was met with snickers from boring old ladies and scoffs from stuffy gentlemen, which saddened him considerably. Soon enough, however, his luck changed again. This time a mountain lion came crashing through the window, thirsty for blood and hungry for shrimp cocktail.
Many people mistakenly think that mountain lions are not as tough as grizzly bears, but looks can be deceiving. Cougars are fast, agile and great decision makers. Joe, no slouch in the decision-making department himself, tackled the wild cat and easily won the fight. Not a single crab cake was spilled and the day was won! Every man, woman and butler at that party was so impressed that they asked Joe about his tuxedo t-shirt.
Joe had a new business now, supplying tuxedo t-shirts to every corner of the world. He made little tuxedo t-shirts for babies, green tuxedo t-shirts in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and white tuxedo t-shirts for the beach. He never filed a patent or a copyright on his idea because he wanted everyone to enjoy the freedom of designing their own tuxedo t-shirt.
In his 83rd year, Joe grew weary of diving into his backyard pool of money. He needed to get back to the forest, so he drove his truck into the woods and put on a Merle Haggard tape. Soon enough, Joe was faced with both of his old foes, the bear and the mountain cat. Clad in his trusty tuxedo t-shirt, Joe was unafraid and did the bravest thing of all—instead of fighting his old enemies, he made friends with them. Joe, the grizzly bear and the cougar wander the woods around Medicine Bow, WY to this very day, laughing at good jokes and basking in the glory of the tuxedo t-shirt.
This post was written by Adam Farwell. Adam is a writer, blogger and designer. He generally blogs about design, fashion, marketing, small business branding and the various creative projects he’s involved in. He currently writes for funnyshirts.org, where you can customize and design your own funny shirts.