Offensive T-Shirts Are the American Way
Few things are more American than t-shirts and pissing people off for no reason. Combining the two is a long-held national pastime that makes baseball seem about as exciting as sniffing Ben Franklin’s beer farts. So I decided to have some fun testing the limits of every American’s inalienable right to conceptualize offensive ideas and pay someone to print them on t-shirts.
My aim was to create garments that the majority of the US citizenry would find offensive and, more specifically, submit designs so despicable that most custom-tee printers would refuse to print them. Still, my ultimate goal was to find a willing printer and get the shirts made no matter what. Mark Twain, perhaps the quintessential American author, once wrote: “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.” Each entrepreneur who refused my business would define yet another instance of American indecency and chip away at the bedrock of liberty as we know it.
I began by setting some guidelines: The topics of racism, sexism, and politics were deemed too easy for this exercise, primarily because online retailers already provide a bountiful selection of knee-jerk schlock marketed to college students and bigots. I also afforded myself the luxury of ratcheting up the viciousness of the shirt designs if the printer proved too eager to accept the initial unseemly idea.
I am happy to report that the First Amendment prevailed and every one of my ideas—even when pushed past the limits of my own morals and common sense—was eventually affixed to a t-shirt for around $20 a pop (except for one pricy exception). Sure, it took enduring a little verbal abuse and a bit of shopping around, but I believe our forefathers would be proud that even today the combined forces of capitalism and free speech triumph over America’s prudish moral quibbles.
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