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Senior Shirts Reimagined

| Tuesday, February 4, 2014

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ERIN RICE | The Observer

Nothing gets me more jazzed up than fashion.

Oh man, fashion? To me that’s just like a … thing that I know a bunch about. I don’t want to brag, but I pretty much made double-sided belts happen. You don’t need to thank me, America, for saving you from ever having to go with the dreaded brown shoes and black belt combo that has felled any number of great men over the years. But you’re welcome anyways.

Socks and sandals? I rarely do that more than once a week in public.

And guess who bought a new shirt over Christmas break for himself all by himself without any help or mom or anything? This guy. It was a dark gray, cotton tee with strokes of blue that spell out “Royals” on the front, with “Hosmer” and “35” etched onto the back. It’s very swanky, and I’m very proud.

All this is suffice to say, I’m basically a fashion aficionado — which is why my gears flipped the switch from “smooth operator” to “grindin’ like Paul Bunyon’s axe” in a New York second the other day when I saw the designs for two new shirts on campus.

I saw the shirts, one blueish, the other greenish, (I’m also a color-differentiating superstar) with a cute little shamrock on the front and “Notre Dame” across the back shoulders, with a subtle “Est. 1842” slipped underneath to let people know we’re legit.

My first thought was, “I didn’t know we had sororities at Notre Dame! But they still won’t allow fraternities? This sounds like a job for an Observer columnist to discuss gender problems at Notre Dame!” I immediately donned my superhero cape and mask (they’re both fashion fabulous, I assure you), swished on down to The Observer’s secret “Lair of Most Hated Opinions” and began typing.

But wait! POW! BAM! ZAP! No, I was informed by my oldest and most trusted assistant/butler — some kids I overheard talking in the dining hall while I was eating by myself — these weren’t sorority shirts after all! They were instead the traditional spirit jerseys for the graduating class of seniors at Notre Dame, available for purchase any and all seniors.

Or, in past years, if you had a crush on the football player whose number correspondents with the graduating year, you could buy a shirt and pretend it’s for your special guy, sort of. Sorry, Luke Massa, no No. 14 t-shirts this year. It’s a real shame, too. Think of all the money you could have made through Notre Dame licensing your likeness on merchandise for profit!

Now, when I heard that Notre Dame was, in fact, not explicitly endorsing sororities, but instead simply allowing the senior class to celebrate its senior class-ness through clever apparel, I felt excitement bubbling up inside of me. Oh, wow, if the spirit jerseys for girls looked like that, I could only imagine what the male version might look like — a sleeveless tee with a witty neon slogan along the lines of “ND 2014 4EVA,” perhaps. Or maybe it would just be a sponsored chest tattoo that would let us proclaim our school pride forever and ever at pools, job interviews, weddings, you name it.

But again, alas, my hopes were dashed. As it turns out, there would be no male version — the sorority shirts would be it. Needless to say, I was disappointed. As a fashion expert, I find it hard to get behind a t-shirt design that exploded in popularity thanks to girls in sororities looking for something that made it look like they borrowed a shirt from their boyfriend. This trend, of course, is something of an oxymoron — since girls weren’t actually borrowing these shirts from male friends, it meant that the fashion trend became popular almost exclusively among women, making this an almost exclusively feminine t-shirt design.

Now, if I’m being honest, this doesn’t bother me pretty much at all (also since I’m being honest — I’m not a fashion expert, and I sincerely apologize for misleading you). More than anything, I probably wasn’t going to buy one of these shirts anyways, because I already bought my one new shirt for the decade (see: Royals shirt, mentioned above), so the design of the shirt wasn’t going to draw much water with me no matter what it was.

I was, however, taken aback by the price of the shirts — $45 a pop. Now I know that there’s a spectacular deal in place for buying in bulk, with two shirts costing $80, but that nearly buy-one-get-one-free discount aside, $45 is absurdly high for a t-shirt. So I thought to myself, “Kevin, why don’t you make one yourself, just for fun.”

I did just that. And I wrote a 1,000-plus-word column about it to justify the shamefully long time I spent (upwards of eight minutes) designing a fake t-shirt that would never go into production.

Now, I understand there are a number of problems with my design here. It’s not good, for one (quick response to that complaint is that I don’t care and I would wear the heck out of this). It says the words “Notre Dame,” for another, an expensive trademark that must be protected lest people all over the world begin using two French words together in a way that doesn’t immediately reflect the concept of “Mind, Body, Spirit.” Finally, I don’t know a) how many seniors there are exactly, or b) what each of their sizes is.

Well, I guessed there’d be about 2,000 seniors, and I guessed medium and large would be the most popular sizes, but still mock-ordered a good number of small and extra-large to meet that demand as well as a few of the XXL and XXXL shirts to make sure nobody got left out.

I don’t want to claim to be a math expert (even sarcastically I don’t deserve to be called a math expert), but with my order, the per-shirt price to order, courtesy of customink.com, was $8.69. Quick comparison — $45 a shirt now, $9 a shirt from me. Let’s get wild and try to make a profit and charge $15 a shirt, and that’s still, what, $30 cheaper? I still almost definitely wouldn’t buy that shirt, but even I can see a good deal.

The Senior Class Council has done good work this year, I’m sure — I haven’t been on their email list all year, despite being a senior, but I bear them no ill will for that. I don’t want to heap undue criticism on them when I, in fact, couldn’t name any of them off the top of my head. But if it were up to you, wouldn’t you rather wear a shirt that declares your coolness loudly and proudly instead of a sorority knockoff?

We r ND, we r cool and we want better t-shirts.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kevin Noonan

I'm a senior from Kansas City studying Marketing with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. I've written for The Observer since I was a freshman, and now serve as editor for Scene.

Contact Kevin