A Tale of Three Black T-shirts

A Tale of Three Black T-shirts


I believe that the black t-shirt, like the black dress, is a wardrobe staple. The best one I ever owned was last seen in Paris. I still miss it.

In late August last year my cousin Len, his wife Diana and their two kids Sarah and Avram joined us on a cottage vacation along the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Early in the week Diana and I noticed we were both wearing black t-shirts with holes. Agreeing that sometimes you hold on to a beloved piece of clothing too long, we made a pact to dispose of our shirts at the end of the week.

Here’s Diana wearing her black t-shirt at a picnic in Keji Seaside Adjunct. Note that I am unwilling to show you my black t-shirt, which is more of a thin black sac with virtually no shape.

Diana's holes

When the end of the vacation came, and we were packing to go, Diana informed me her shirt was in the trash. I was then forced to explain that I just couldn’t do it. I worried that I didn’t have a replacement yet and pictured myself floundering in front of my closet desperate for its presence.

Now roll ahead to March 2016 and I’m in Hoi An, Vietnam with my sister and her family. We’ve decided that we’re going to do what a lot of tourists come here to do and have some clothing custom made. We’ve chosen a really wonderful shop called Yaly.  The way it works is that you can bring in a picture, pick a pattern or show up with an item of clothing that you’d like replicated. Once you show the design, the sales women take you to the bolts of fabric best suited for the item.  So in the midst of this gorgeous shop, where people are spending thousands of dollars, my sister pulls out a thread bare black t-shirt with more holes than one can count and proclaims it the best t-shirt she’s ever owned and that she wants another. My brother-in-law Joel winces and disappears. And in a moment of compassion and understanding, coming out of the trauma of trying to part with my t-shirt earlier in August, I show it to a sales person and ask her if she thinks we could remake it.  Looking part confused and part horrified she tells me there is virtually no fabric in their very large store that would be suitable.  I wish I had video of that moment but I don’t, so here’s what the shirt looks like instead.

Fia's holesFia holes 2

With the plan for reproduction scrapped, and my own black t-shirt back at the hotel, my sister and I were forced to discuss our ‘clothing issues’. Money’s not an issue, and we both have good taste; so why do we walk around in clothing with holes? Note: These are not the only pieces of clothing we cling to that should be burned.  We couldn’t come up with an agreeable explanation but in the end we decided there was no other honourable option but to make another pact.  She would leave her shirt in Vietnam if I would commit to get rid of mine.  I agreed.

But something happened in the remaining few weeks of our vacation. Maybe she thought I’d forget or she wanted me to act first….I’m just not sure. But the long and the short of it is that Fia left with her shirt firmly stowed in her backpack and I’m still wearing mine.

Now I am left wondering if it’s necessary to close the book on this, and if it is, how? In pursuit of the answer I conducted a little research and have discovered that Fia’s black t-shirt has a LONG history. I have evidence that it dates back to 2009 -mine only goes back 3 years at most.

Fia's holes 2009
Fia in the shirt in 2009
Fia's shirt 2012
Me in Fia’s shirt in 2012

(If anyone is able to provide me with evidence of this t-shirt before 2009 I would like to see it).

So here’s what I think needs to happen. Fia before we disgrace ourselves any further, I will find myself another black t-shirt. I’m in Vietnam for god’s sake, how hard can it be?  And when I do I will bury mine in a small repatriation ceremony, as I just discovered it’s ‘Made in Vietnam’.  And if you can provide me with evidence that you’ve sent your shirt on to its rightful place in the trash, I will do the same for you. Heck you can have 10 black shirts if you want. There must be millions made here each and every day.  And then we need to move on.  This is far too mundane a problem to be writing about.  And thank-you Diana…you’re an inspiration.