…I discovered these shirts.
Since 1993, these shirts have been a standard part of my wardrobe. When I left the Navy, these shirts became my new uniform. I never actually intended it to be such – it simply happened that way. A youthworker just doesn’t belong in a ironed collared shirt or tie. So I quickly donned my loud shirts and BINGO I was re-invented!
In doing so these shirts have prevented more acts of violence upon my person than you shall ever know. I’ve been able to walk into and away from situations that I would never had of reported to my supervisor a the time, simply because these shirts hide all so well the slightly darker then normal, 6’2″ fella within. Working with kids on the street and in their homes is a potentially dangerous business and most people thought we did it all on our own. We didn’t – we used those things we had about us; my fellow workmate (who mentored me into the youthwork game) was a musician – so he used his guitar. It used the only things available to me – my understanding of good camouflage and – my shirts!
I love their simplicity. I love that they come in more colours than I can name or count. I love that they break every colour or fashion ‘convention’ there probably is in the book. I love that people are still so easily drawn in by such a simple concept and I love that they seem to have such a wonderfully strange affect on people. For the most part, they make people smile. People who smile first – often relax a lot sooner than most. There’s a lot we can learn from such simple things. Sometimes we hold ourselves apart from others for all the wrong reasons and what does it really achieve for us anyways eh?
Here’s the thing though, I actually get a lot blokes (Australian men) complimenting me on my shirts. You name it – all types of blokes; manly blokes, wussy blokes, old blokes, young blokes, straight blokes, gay blokes, can’t-make-up-me-mind blokes, brainy blokes and dumb blokes. They stop me in the street, on the bus, on the train, down town, in the shops, and out and about in the bush. It really doesn’t matter – they stop me just about everywhere.
Blokes – AUSTRALIAN blokes – complimenting me, another bloke, on the shirt I’m wearing. Now I don’t know about your own experiences with Aussie blokes, but it’s not common practice for Aussie blokes to close with you (walking out of their way), and say “Nice shirt mate!”. Blokes stuck in traffic don’t wind their window down to say things like, “Mate – nice shirt!” (well – except for that particular bloke). Aussie men just don’t do these things right?
It’s not the norm around these parts. Men don’t compliment each other on their ties, cuff links, shoes, accessories – not the same way that women do – they just don’t. Strangely enough though, men almost always do when it comes to these shirts of mine. And I’ll admit too – rather embarrassingly – that I react to these compliments. I smile broadly and say “Cheers mate!” nine times out of ten – or I might nod sagely- all blokey like, because maybe the moment might call for me to soften it some with something appropriate like: “Yeah mate – I need all the help I can get!”.
Blokey type comments – you know – man stuff! There’s no doubt though – the blokes who compliment me on my shirts do so with complete confidence, no hesitation and no awkwardness. The shirts leave them an opening and they take it! I just don’t understand it really – but who’s going to question such a good and positive thing?
There’s nothing new in what I’m doing and I know this. Since I’ve left the Defence Forces, I’ve done my utmost not to be in a position where I’ve had to wear a collared shirt for more that an outing or two. I can’t help the ironing, nor can I stop myself polishing my shoes, but I DETEST any form of power dressing – especially that which is designed to make others seem out of place. People are free to have giggle at my shirts – in fact I actively encourage it. Let it go – have a laugh, come and have a yarn – it’s all good! I mean really – what could it hurt?
Since I found these shirts, they’ve spread like wildfire! Nearly all my family (and extended family) members own one of these shirts. I’ve found people every couple of years who travel to SE Asia and I press good old fashion Australian dollars into their hands, in the vain hope that they might reward me with a bland cardboard box, exploding with cotton colour. This they do – frequently – and I’m a sucker for the bloody things!
I’m a junkie. I can’t help it. Ironically enough I take these shirts as seriously as I once did the uniforms I wore. I don’t dismiss lightly the ‘power’ I have when I wear these things. To some they might well be the most ugliest things they’ve ever seen. However, to me, they remain the most effective tools I’ve ever ’employed’ in my various roles where I need to break down barriers quickly and engage with new people.
If you ask me – I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 60 to 100 Baht. Talk about ‘bang’ for your buck eh?!
Belongum – Out!