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The Shirt Show

Tessa DeMers | Thursday, April 18, 2013



Scene Writer

In the tradition of Catholic caritas, any Notre Dame student you meet might well give you the shirt off his or her back. But please, don’t hold your breath waiting for any ND student to part with… The Shirt.

Of all the unique and honored traditions that have attached themselves to the Irish student body – and specifically to our fabled football team – I can’t think of a single one dearer to my heart than the annual unveiling of the commemorative T-shirt to be worn proudly from the first game of the season to the last.  Each time Coach Brian Kelly’s warriors look up into the stands to see where the cheering’s coming from, they’ll gaze upon a sea of – well, whatever The Shirt looks like. And that’s due to be unveiled from a balcony above the book store tonight.

This event marks the 23rd annual Shirt Unveiling Ceremony, which began as The Shirt Project back in 1990. The chairman of AnTostal needed a way to raise money for the events of the week, and decided that selling a T-shirt to the students would be a good approach. (We always need more shirts, after all!). “The Shirt,” as it quickly came to be known, was such a success that they continued the tradition in all the years that followed, raising so much money that The Shirt Project became its own campus organization.

This year’s “Shirt Show” will feature performances by the ND Marching Band, the Cheerleaders and the Leprechaun, the Irish Dancers, Glee Club, Pom Squad, the 1st Class Steppers, and Harmonia.  Coach Kelly and many of the football players will also make an appearance and have a few words to say, no doubt looking back on a terrific last season and ahead to another exciting one. 

My affectionate relationship with The Shirt began even before I was an ND student, even before I signed up to attend the school from which I so soon will graduate. I came to visit the campus with my Mom as a young and somewhat naïve high school student, and we happened upon the same kind of unveiling ceremony that will take place tonight. I thought it was clever and catchy, of course – this whole “shirt thing.” But I think I glimpsed even then, coming to appreciate more deeply year after year, that The Shirt is one of the ties that bind.

It’s one of the most powerful reminders, especially during our home football games in the fall, that the ND student body is not merely a gathering of disconnected or isolated individuals. For the four years we are here, and in some ways for the rest of our lives, we become The People of the Shirt, sharing an identity and a solidarity that I truly believe goes beyond the normal loyalties one feels under the banner of “Be True to Your School.”

That first year, The Shirt was a pale, almost-skin toned gold-ish color and featured the exhortation “Rise and Strike.” My favorite of all The Shirts was the most recent one – and no, not just because the Irish emerged from their season undefeated. It was a lovely ND navy blue, it featured a reference to our 125th anniversary, and it carried the motto “Shake Down the Thunder.” It didn’t hurt that it was also The Shirt of my senior year.

I will never forget my four years at Notre Dame, including the season that the Irish on the field actually seemed, on our best days, to take the motto to heart.  It was my senior year. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And you’d better believe – I definitely have The Shirt!

Today at 4 p.m., come out to the bookstore and enjoy the show while excitedly awaiting the unveiling on next year’s official The Shirt!

Contact Tessa DeMers at                                                           [email protected]