shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, the iconic tag-team duo known as The Rockers, appeared on a wrestling segment titled “The Barber Shop” hosted by fellow wrestler Brutus Beefcake. The pair was on the verge of breaking up. After talking it out, however, Michaels and Jannetty shook hands and everything appeared to be back on track.
But of course, in the world of wrestling entertainment, happy reunions derived from open communication is a seldom employed storyline. With one swift, unprovoked superkick to his partner’s chin, Michaels became one of the most hated wrestlers on the planet. Cementing his newfound status as heel, he proceeded to toss Jannetty through the glass window of the faux barber shop set. Michaels went on to have a legendary wrestling career, while Jannetty receded to the background.
As a kid immigrating from Hong Kong to Canada, wrestling played a huge role in my attempts to familiarize myself with the wonders of North American culture. In the third grade, I would watch Monday Night Raw religiously, and Jerry Springer too, because these were the shows the cool kids got away with watching at night. This is why, years later, when I came upon a Jannetty t-shirt at Mr. Throwback, a vintage clothing store in New York’s Lower East Side, it was a t-shirt I needed to own – even if the price, at US$60, felt a bit steep.
Wearing this shirt would give me ownership of one of my most cherished childhood moments. It was a gateway back to all those hours I spent trying to immerse myself through wrestling. It was also my way of expressing to the rest of the world that I was a part of the culture, not just a semi-devoted fan, but someone whose knowledge was rich enough that he would want to wear a Jannetty t-shirt.
It is, of course, a matter of social necessity to wear clothing. But pieces of apparel, like the Jannetty t-shirt, can be more than a mere requirement of everyday living. It also has the capability to grant the person wearing it an opportunity to express a part of themselves to the world. In fact, no article of clothing combines simple functionality with expression quite like a t-shirt with graphics.
The history of the graphic t-shirt can be traced back to a scene from The Wizard of Oz in 1939, when the workers stuffing the scarecrow in the movie wore green T-shirts with the word “Oz” on it. From there, graphic t-shirts started to become a part of pop culture, and the go-to piece of apparel for self-expression. From soldiers in the Second World War wearing t-shirts bearing the logos and names of their branches to famous rock groups in the 1960s and 1970s, like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, turning their branded t-shirts into collector’s items for their fans.