Hacking Social Interaction with a Me-Shirt

I designed my own personalized “me shirt,” and how you can too.

Fashion is powerful. Fashion defines popular culture, symbolizes ideological movements, and perhaps most importantly, fashion is an expression of one’s self.

Fashion is also a perfect opportunity to spark connections between people — if I want to engage with another person’s “expressed self,” I can do so by commenting on a piece of clothing or laughing at a funny t-shirt.

However, most people wear clothing that show common brands or have simple, solid patterns. But what if we could use our clothing to really connect with people?

Some of the most common options out there relate to sports teams, concerts, brand names, or hometowns.

But, can we do even better?

What if, instead of buying shirts because they were sold at a venue, each person actually crafted their own shirt as a work of art that really represented their self? This shirt could give people a better understanding sense of one’s identity, enabling judgment beyond simple physical appearance characteristics.

As a traveler, I’m always frustrated by frequent interactions with strangers that could have been deeper had we had the chance to really sift through our common interests. T-shirts are a great way to provide a prompt to strangers (“Hey, what’s the logo on your shirt?” or “I love that TV Show too! Did you see the latest episode?”).

The Experiment: Designing a “Me Shirt”

On a quest to explore this idea, I crafted my own “me shirt.” I’m a huge TV and film nerd, so I decided to craft a shirt that represents the TV shows and movies that have profoundly inspired and shaped me. Can you get the references?

From left to right, top to bottom: Breaking Bad, Parks and Recreation, The Truman Show, Lost, The Matrix, Arrested Development, Inception, The Usual Suspects, and Game of Thrones

I made the designs using Sketch, as well as borrowing heavily from other designers’ work (since I’m not selling this commercially, this falls under Fair Use). I used Rush Order Tees to create the shirt, which created and mailed it to me at a very reasonable price. The references are intentionally vague — only those who have watched the show would actually understand the reference.

The Result: Success?

After a couple days of wearing the shirt — a stranger actually spoke with me! A cashier at a restaurant noted the designs and correctly guessed every single one of the references. While my experience since then hasn’t been quite as fruitful, it’s still been an awesome way to wear my own creation while also showcasing my interests to strangers for the chance of a new interaction. I hope to craft a couple other personal designs to experiment with this more.

For those interested, I published a large set of my designs as individual t-shirts on my new t-shirt site, Minimal Shirt.

Do any of you have your own favorite t-shirts you wear to hack your social interactions? Any of you create your own t-shirt designs? Would love to hear more in the comments!


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