I do not make fashion statements and definitely do not spend good money on T-shirts that have special images and words. The T-shirts with images and words I wear are all given to me free from my previous workplace, recruiters and other sources. So occasionally when someone points to my T-shirt and asks, “What does that mean?” I am usually a few seconds behind not knowing what they are talking about and struggling hard to come up with an interesting story so I won’t disappoint them. It is hard for me to let them down by saying, “Oh, it is nothing”.
To be sure not everyone I run into ask me about the T-shirt, the ratio is probably 1 in 1000. May be it is higher for others, may be my T-shirts are not question worthy. It did make me think if I ever asked anyone about their T-shirt. I cannot think of a situation. In their book, Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein talk about our perception of what others think of us:
One reason why people expend so much effort conforming to social norms and fashions is that they think that others are closely paying attention to what they are doing. … If you are subject to such fears, here is a possibly comforting thought: they aren’t really paying as much attention to you as you think.
What Thaler and Sustein say about conformity goes for non-conformity as well. People go out of the way to stand out, be the rebel or at the very least wear “unique” T-shirts. Here is a discomforting thought to them, people aren’t really paying as much attention as you think.
I would like to point out a website I wrote about sometime back, 200nipples.com, a perfectly G-rated site despite its name, that sells exactly 100 T-shirts for each design. The pricing model is interesting too, T-short numbered #1 through #100 cost $1 to $100. They are betting on people who want to be non-conforming, to stand out and expect to be noticed for the T-shirts they are wearing to fork over money to buy T-shirts for $10-$100. I am surprised to see T-shirts being sold for $48 in their website. My willingness to pay for T-shirts is based on my reference price, $0.