Saturday 3 December 2016

Paul Galvin: Tee'd off

Paul Galvin

Published 09/04/2011 | 05:00

Jukebox safety-pin T-shirt, €100
Jukebox safety-pin T-shirt, €100
Elvis Jesus 3D T-shirt €55
Rivet stripe 'Cool Couture' T-shirt €100

It's very difficult to get T-shirts wrong, but I'm very proud to say I have managed it. Anyone who saw 'Galvinised' at Christmas will testify to that. Plunging necklines plus man cleavage equals fashion faux pas. Plunging necklines plus man cleavage plus cameraman recording footage for RTE Christmas documentary to be viewed by half a million people equals big fat fashion faux pas with bells and fairy lights on.

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Case for the defence: I just liked the colour and bought it in Topman off the rack. Case for the prosecution: I bought two more. Case for the defence: I never wore them. Case for the prosecution: I wore one on TV!

Case for the defence: I was in New York and it was really hot. Case for the prosecution: Shut up, you've no excuse.

Ah well, what's a faux pas here and there? I ain't afraid of no faux pas. It wasn't so much a V-neck T-shirt as a V-shaped, valley-neck T-shirt!

Seriously, though, men's tees have become so boring it's untrue. Talk about homogeneity. Where's the imagination? Where's the detail? Where's the creativity?

In an age of mass consumption and fast fashion, I suppose these considerations can take a back seat to satisfying demand. A demand which, in an Irish male context, can be basic. Comfort, value and conformity may be the criteria, which is totally acceptable, but need it be at the expense of fashion?

I see so many uninspired, insipid T-shirts on high-street shop rails today. For men, anyway.

Take a walk through a women's store, such as alwear, and you see lots of edgy, clever, contemporary, attention-grabbing T-shirts. My sister asked me to pick up a skirt for her in Bershka recently. I had a look around and found it pretty quickly, and then bought three T-shirts to go with it.

There were so many cool T-shirts and vest tops to choose from. Great fabrics, colours, slogans, portraits and prints; I was very impressed, if a little disappointed that the same choice is not available for men on the high street. Unless you count the lame, slogan-type tees I see so much of today. You know the ones -- 'This would look so much better on your bedroom floor'.

I have a collection of classic tees that I'd love to see make a comeback. When I was in my teens, buying a T-shirt was an investment. A statement. Quality cotton tees that were durable, bought after some consideration with longevity in mind. Today, there's a saturation of poor-quality, mass-produced, homogeneous T-shirts that guys wear two or three times then discard or wear to the gym.

A T-shirt collection that did catch my eye recently is from a label called Elvis Jesus at Harvey Nics. This is exactly what a T-shirt collection should be.

Shops satisfy customer demand and if the customer wants comfort and a low price, then that's what you give him. But if a customer wants safety-pin detail, bold stripes, studs, clever slogans written in stitching, tactile fabrics, eye-catching prints and interesting colours, then Elvis Jesus is the place to go. The psychedelic 3D tee complete with glasses is a little gimmicky, but at least creative.

There are other really punchy collections, such as 2K, True Religion and Dirty Youth. I'm not a big fan of online shopping, but a trawl through asos.com has convinced me otherwise. Its men's section has T-shirts for everyone, stocking brands the world over.

Puma has tagged the brilliant Hussein Chalayan to give their men's tees a rather cool new twist. J Lindeberg is present online, also with basic tees, and a label called Cheap Monday caught my eye with its great striped vests.

Asos's own collection is by far my favourite, though. Classic Breton stripes, which I love, are great for the summer and come in many colours, but it's the design detail I love. A range of V-necks, U-necks, crew necks, scoop necks and cowl necks means there's great variety. I'm over V-necks, personally, and love the deep U-neck.

Sleeves are another great way to play with your look. Asos offers a choice of long sleeve, short sleeve and three-quarter-length sleeve. I'm into the three-quarter length. There's a play with contrasts, too, mixing blocks of colour on the top half with stripes on the bottom half.

Pockets, and oversized ones, are playful and practical. Breton vests with dropped armholes, varsity prints, flag prints, abstract prints and a really brilliant photographic print in one collection illustrate exactly the imagination and creativity I alluded to earlier.

Penneys is making some nice cartoon T-shirts, which have a novelty value, but look good and are on the right side of cheesy. I like the A-Team one, but maybe that's just because I played 'The A-Team' a lot when I was young. Cartoon tees have a sentimental value that people will spend money on.

'Star Wars' is another wearable tee theme. American Apparel does some great 'Sesame Street'-print tees for girls. Creative Growth For Everybody, Forever 21, Element and Glamourpuss do great T-shirts and summer vests... for girls! What about us lads? I'm going to have to break out some old ones.

My favourite tees depend on the fabric and the colour. They also need to be tactile. I have a 'kiss' tee with the word spelled out in studding in a charcoal colour. An Elvis-print Jack & Jones one in a nude colour is another favourite.

The same old suspects tend to keep cropping up on men's tees: Elvis, Jesus, Elvis and Jesus together for variety, good old Che Guevara and Jim Morrison.

Music has always had a huge influence on fashion. Being a big fan of music and musicians that have that iconic appeal, my favourite tees are the rock 'n' roll type. I have some Ramones tees, Guns N' Roses tees and the obligatory Rolling Stones T-shirt with the tongue sticking out. Though, I must add, there's no comparison between the studded tongue detail and the regular printed Stones tees.

Travelling is a great way to find cool T-shirts. I got some great ones in Sydney. Labels such as Ksubi and Arvust are big Down Under. I also love the Joan Jett T-shirts. She has a very strong punk appeal. I have a soft spot for rock chicks and I love the rock-chick look. It's almost festival season and girls all over Ireland are busy putting together festival outfits. Tee shirts are a vital component.

Irish girls pull off the rock-chick look well, so I'll look forward to Oxegen and Electric Picnic again this year.

So it's nearly summer, T-shirt season. They will be everywhere you look. Really cool, edgy, individual ones probably won't be, unless you're a girl. But then Kanye West and Liv Tyler turned up to a Givenchy party at PFW wearing the same Rottweiler-print tee.

The most cutting-edge designers today, such as the Proenza Schouler lads, Tisci and Erdem, all think outside the box and break some rules to create new fashion.

Why not break some rules of your own this summer? Girls wear guys' tees, so why can't guys wear girls' tees? Within reason now, lads. You don't want to be making any fashion faux pas.

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