Do not let your tee-shirt do the talking for you

by on 週六, 29 九月 2007 評論

The tee-shirts we wear often bear the name of a brand or a city, or else they offer to the people who happen to cross our path some words of wisdom or derision. This often makes me think about an old professor I often met, more than twenty years ago now.

He used to teach philosophy, and, as you can expect, he was not a big fan of that line of clothes. However, what was interesting was the reason he gave for this dislike, a reason worthy of a philosopher. His point was not about aesthetics or decorum, it was not even about the content of the inscriptions adorning our tee-shirts. No, what he did not like about “tee-shirts that know how to speak’ as he used to say was simply the fact that they were speaking at all. Doing so, they were speaking on behalf of the one who was wearing them. Even if the tee-shirts were saying the most beautiful things in the world, this was in no way an excuse. He preferred to listen to the bearer. The one making his tee-shirt speak, he used to say, frees himself from the duty to speak from the center of his own self. For sure, he was a philosopher, and nobody takes philosophers seriously, but his viewpoint might be worth noting anyway.
We often speak about making a “fashion statement”, and, curiously, the expression is rather a laudatory one. By what we wear we are supposed to say something about ourselves. It seems to me that making a fashion statement amounts to wearing a mask and pretending that this mask is my real face. Making a fashion statement is rarely conducive to dialogue. Tee-shirts or other clothes may have a mouth but, for sure, they are deprived of ears.
Looking a « tee-shirts that know how to speak » makes me think of the sentence of another philosopher, a Roman this time and an Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. He says somewhere that the thoughts that occupy our soul are ultimately reflected on our face, and also that our personal worth eventually depends upon the worth of the thoughts that we nurture: people who nurture thoughts of a low nature will finally be worth very little; people who direct their heart towards elevated thoughts will see that their personal value is likewise exalted.
If Marcus Aurelius is right, then let us be careful about what we are truly saying and doing by letting our clothes speak on our behalf. By identifying ourselves, consciously or not, to what our tee-shirts have to say, we might finally get a face as expressive as an old shirt and to be worth as much as the tee-shirt we bought at a discount on the corner of a street.

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