Fuck you, Urban Outfitters, for making me feel like a phony. It's not news that UO (that's the cool way to write. WHATEVER, ho!!) has co-opted every real and phony novelty t-shirt design in the history of America. But I've noticed lately they've done it so well they've effectively blurred the lines between ironic and earnest, and between real and fake. Sometimes I can't tell at all, like with this one. The sheer volume of designs and messages is staggering, honestly. They've aggregated this amazing projected-nostalgia arsenal where past and present have come together on your back and boobs, and thirft store serendipity is cut completely out of the picture. I've always found it fascinating how UO perfectly understands the good feelings associated with those "ah-ha!" thrift store moments when, after digging through piles of crap on Saturday afternoon, you chance upon the perfect pair of faded Lee jeans or a "Foxy Lady" t-shirt. Then, UO totally undermines or marginalizes those feel-good moments simply by mass-producing them. Now everyone's lucky, and no one is.
I don't categorically dislike the t-shirts at UO but I must confess they make me sort of defensive. They give me that "hey, you can't fool me" feeling, like I'm a member of the local news team's "Scambusters" crew.
For instance, I remember seeing David Cross co-hosting the Jimmy Kimmel show one week, and he was wearing this really excellent t-shirt, printed with two poorly rendered African-American faces surrounding the words, "A Touch of Class." I kind of loved it. Then, two days later, I saw that exact same t-shirt at Urban Outfitters, multiplied across every size and a couple of colors. It made my penis go soft. Now, admiring that "Touch of Class" t-shirt was like admiring someone's Old Navy cargo pants. Just another commodity. But a fun commodity, I guess.
The UO cute t-shirt takeover has even caused me to doubt the veracity of certain items in my own wardrobe. This t-shirt, for example. I love the shit out of this t-shirt and, to the casual observer, it could have been some carefully concocted ironic statement direct from the UO design floor. Is HI-LIFE BURGERS even a real place? Or just the product of some F.I.T. grad's imagination, culturally sampled from an assortment of other roadside images and type treatments?
But it IS a real place, in South Pasadena. And, thanks to a friend of mine, I have eaten there, and enjoyed the shit out of one of their burgers. And I love the t-shirt, mainly because it shows that Hi-Life, like many independently owned fast food restaurants, is more focused on their food than producing up-to-date, cutting edge fashion. I also love the shirt partly because, well, I love burger meat in my meat-hole.
Unfortunately, whenever I wear this shirt I feel like I have to provide an extremely long explanation detailing its genuine sentimental worth, to pre-emptively expunge any concern that I'm being ironic or false. And for this I blame Urban Outfitters. (and, to a lesser extent, Abercrombie & Fitch, for dumping their bold, almost fascist, preppie pride for cheap bandwagon t-shirt irony. A&E has lost their sense of self-assuredness. that's no way to start a master race, guys.) Because UO has rendered personal style, integrity and luck useless. They've made irony too easy and being earnest far too exhausting. I mean, just look how many words I wrote just to have permission to wear my hideous Hi-Life Burgers t-shirt.