Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How this shirt will save the world

Before royal blue was back in style, I picked up this t-shirt at a Roots in 2004. I was catching a one-way flight to London, England and needed something comfortable to wear on the plane. The shirt was never long enough for me. Even in the change room I kept on tugging it down, hoping it would grow. But I did the irrational shopper-thing and the in-denial of being a tall-girl thing and bought it anyways.

Three days later I found myself at the airport's Bureau de Change trying to juggle my wallet, my bags, and the tugging of the shirt. In the reflection of the stainless steel walls of the Bureau, I noticed a guy smiling at my apparent struggle. We ended up going for a drink in the airport bar, a drink in the airport Tim's, and a four hour walk around the airport's interior, exchanging tales and woes and hopes for our travels. By the time we had to walk to our gates, he had already convinced me to catch a flight once I landed in London to go see him in Amsterdam. His gate was to the right. Mine was to the left. It was an airport romance tragedy. The fork had been reached and we had to say good-bye.

I will always remember this shirt for this story. I'll remember walking down the hallway to my gate tugging at the silly thing and being filled with a world of disappointment. I had the boy's email grasped in my hand, and any movie I'd ever seen was replaying in my mind telling me to turn around and run after him. Every step I took I was adjusting my tee, debating whether to turn back or to let him go. But by being distracted with trying to stretch it out I had failed to see that the hallway to my gate was shaped in a half-circle formation. And that the hallway to his gate had been shaped in a half-circle formation. And that when I finally reached my gate and tugged one last time at my Roots' navy blue tee, the boy was once again in front of me. All along during the shirt tugs and the airport bar drinks and the email grasps, his gate had been right next to mine.

The fork in the road turned out to be a gigantic spoon.

Despite trying to feed you an Aesop Fable, there is a point to this story. If you ever saw my shirt hanging on a rack at the ole Value V, you'd probably notice the toothpaste stains, the faded colours, and the strange wave formation of the hem from all that tugging. But I wonder if you'd pay an extra $3.50 more if you knew the tale behind the t-shirt, and keep it for much longer. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, anyone?

This is the premise behind Australian shirt store Re-Shirt. Their website poses one startling question: "Do products last longer if you know their history?" Re-Shirt invites anyone who has a shirt to sell to post it on their website along with the story about why that shirt is memorable to them. Then the purchaser of the "Re-Shirt" [ha! ho! clever Trevor] is invited to post their continuing story of their experiences with their new shirt. Consumer recycling at its finest.

By preserving the 10,000 liters of water it takes to produce a new cotton tee, the shirt off your back may one day save the world. Or help someone to meet one of the Great Loves of their life, like mine did.

For more on Re-Shirt's philosophy, click here

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