Graphic t-shirts have the power to reduce your appearance to that of a 14-year-old in a matter of seconds. You know the kind of tee I’m talking about. The ones that read “my imaginary friend thinks I’m crazy too,” purchased from the clearance rack of Hot Topic, Wal-Mart, TeeFury or Fuego (aka, Tumblr the store).
Graphic t-shirts are tricky to pull off when you’re an adult, and especially difficult if you look younger than your age. If you don’t like high school boys hitting on you, you may want to rethink wearing that graphic tee out in public.
The obvious choice is to avoid wearing them as much as possible; I find people in positions of authority value my opinions more when I’m not wearing a shirt with cartoons on it that says “Monster Party!” or a grotesque Murderdolls shirt. If you’re really attached to graphic t-shirts but find you need to look semi-professional, at least save them for the weekend. Or turn them into tank tops. Or throw pillows. There are many other options.
If you feel that you can’t part ways with your graphic t-shirts, at least spare those around you by avoiding ones with subjectively witty sayings and phrases: “Don’t make me get the flying monkeys,” “Cool story, bro,” “Keep calm and (insert fandom reference here),” etc. You know these shirts all too well. They’re annoying and often overuse sayings that weren’t too funny to begin with.
Fortunately, there are a few other options that aren’t too bad. Wolf t-shirts are one of these options. These were pretty popular for a while, but not so much recently. They’re probably safe to wear still if you don’t see an overpopulation of them in the Portland wilds. In a similar vein, you could look for a unicorn tee instead, if wolves aren’t quite up your alley.
Band shirts are another option, though I’d advise you to make sure you know what band you’re representing. Some band t-shirts have really neat designs. Some band shirts are really old (I’m told this is vintage) and the designs printed on them aren’t issued anymore. You never know what you’ll find unless you do a little digging! And, of course, band shirts always make nice souvenirs from shows you’ve attended.
Stereotypical tourist shirts are another of my favorite alternatives—either from trips you’ve taken or purchased secondhand from your favorite thrift store or a yard sale. There are so many cool vintage touristy tees out that that it’d be a shame to wear the same Doctor Who shirt as everyone else, you know? Exhibit A: “Washington, the Switzerland of America” with an illustration of Mt. St. Helens. That is a real shirt I once saw and is infinitely better than anything you’ll find at Fuego.
The moral of the story is that graphic t-shirts will always make you look much younger. But if you go about them in the right way, they’re more likely to be a conversation starter than a reason people avoid you.