T-shirt Therapy

20 Jun

I have a lot of complicated feelings about leaving the Bay Area. So, like a good American, I brushed aside these emotions and went shopping.

I’ve recently gotten no less than 6 t-shirts proclaiming my love for the Bay Area. That doesn’t include all the t-shirts I have from nonprofits based in Oakland (APEN, CJJC, SOUL, CFJ, GIFT, and counting).

As if having these shirts will make me feel less sad about leaving. As if going back to Orange County wearing a t-shirt that says I think I’m cooler than you will make me feel better about moving. As if it’s a good thing to commodify and package a very complex area to market it to middle-class transplants from Orange County.

But that’s we do, and that’s what we’re told to do through the 3,000 advertising messages we receive daily. That doesn’t even include the encouragement to consume coming from our news and politicians. We take our fears and anxieties about the economy, climate change, terrorist attacks, rising inequality, and try to buy our way out of these problems – or at least distract ourselves and feel better temporarily.

I love all my t-shirts. And I will probably buy more in the future. But I also know that consumption cannot replace feeling real emotions and organizing for justice.

I spent over $100 on these t-shirts. Perhaps I should have spent $25 on one t-shirt made by a company that pays all of its workers a living wage and then donated the rest to an organization fighting for garment workers rights in the U.S., El Salvador, Nicaragua, or Vietnam (where my shirts were made). Maybe I should’ve just bought a shirt from Liberation Ink (to go with the other 4 shirts I have from them).

But the thing about the American shopping experience is that it freezes your brain so you can’t think of alternatives for how to spend (or not spend) your money. The endless choices, attractive displays, lack of windows, fluorescent lighting making you notice how dingy your old clothes are, and plethora of items that are way less expensive than their true cost…it’s easy to get carried away. It’s designed to make you get carried away.

There are exactly zero shopping malls in Oakland (I was disappointed to discover that Eastmont Mall was not really a mall when I first moved here), but if you have spent as much time as I have in Westminster Mall, South Coast Plaza, or the Shops at Mission Viejo, you know what I mean.

I’m not sure how to resist the shopping allure in Orange County. And I don’t know how to be a responsible consumer there. But if one day you see me in Oakland with an Orange County t-shirt on (1 not 6), it’s probably a good thing (embracing my wholeness, remember!).


One Response to “T-shirt Therapy”


  1. Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing « oakland 2 oc - August 22, 2011

    […] fashion trends I’m aware of that have come out of Oakland are all those Oaklandish t-shirts (I have several) and Black Panther berets. Los Angeles has a lot more going on and Orange County has a serious case […]

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