I stayed on 26th Street for senior week, right on the Wildwood-North Wildwood border. Five of us crammed into a two-bedroom flat; I had a hide-a-bed in the kitchen. We were a block and a half from the beach, on the main drag in the Wildwoods. We all felt so free, finally out of high school. There was a big porch. When we walked barefoot in the house, the bottom of our feet would get dirty. The place had not been vacuumed in a while.
I paid $125. It ruled.
The old house that served as our senior week party spot is gone now, replaced by a condo building with garages and plastic railings and (presumably) floors that are cleaned every once in a while. I know nothing about the new condos’ owners, but it’s safe to say I hate them.
When I was a kid, my parents used to drive by their summer house, still standing even though they lived in it one magical summer in 1926 or whenever. (I’m kidding, mom and dad! I love you.) That house is finally gone now, too, and if you spent any significant time in a charming (i.e., dilapidated) Wildwood house before the mid-2000s housing boom, your old place is probably gone too.
But though Wildwood has changed, as soon as I step foot on the boardwalk it’s like using a time machine back to 2000. I might as well be 50 pounds lighter and wearing an Allen Iverson t-shirt. Sure, the Sam’s Pizza is much larger—rebuilt after a December 2005 fire—and the once crappy-looking Shore Motel is now the Shore Plaza Beach Resort, but it still feels the same. Crowds of ‘roided-up monsters gather around test-your-strength punching games at the arcade, groups of teenagers sit on benches and cause trouble to feel older and Floss Stingel’s voice still tells you to “Watch the tram car, please.”
And then there are boardwalk t-shirts. The t-shirts that are popular have changed, of course, but the general idea is exactly the same: Boardwalk t-shirts are the tackiest things you can find, something you probably wouldn’t wear anywhere else (except, as my friend Jameson noted, on a South Philly stoop). While walking down the boardwalk on Saturday night, I wondered if boardwalk fashion had gotten worse since I was a kid. I’m not sure. There are some dumb t-shirts nowadays, but Big Johnson and Coed Naked t-shirts are no longer popular. Hmm. (If you’re wondering, Coed Sportswear still exists, and makes this Phillies shirt with Utley, Howard, Rollins and Dom Brown on it.)
I mentally put the types of t-shirts into categories while perusing the Boardwalk shops Saturday night. Some shirts may fit into more than one, but these are the general types of shirts you’ll find on the Wildwood boardwalk. Let’s see what they say about the wearers.
I, too, enjoy this popular trend.
No, the kids aren’t suddenly all obsessed with “You Only Live Once,” the first track on The Strokes’ third album. That’d be weird, since it came out in January 2006. “YOLO” is trending on pretty much every social networking service frequented by children, chiefly popularized by the Drake track “The Motto.”
A lot of the stupid, tacky trends now come from the Internet, as the rageface/trollface comics and the Minecraft (??) t-shirts show. What I’ve always found interesting is how all the most popular shirts are at every store. Do all the stores just copy off one another? Are they all owned by the same person? Fortunately for the Wildwood t-shirt cabal, store workers have no answers and I am too lazy to do any more research.
I want this hot shirt but I’d like to get it in lower quality for cheaper.
Back in the summer of 2008, a friend and I were in Wildwood and all over the city there were people wearing “NO BITCH ASS NESS.” You could not walk two steps without seeing someone wearing a shirt bearing that slogan. I had no idea what it was; turned out it was a hot Sean John t-shirt that summer. Sure, why not. No bitchassness! I hope this isn’t something offensive for a white person to write.
We returned to Wildwood a few weeks later, and to our surprise all the shirts were gone. They had mysteriously disappeared from all the stores. People weren’t even wearing them anymore. No doubt Diddy himself went to the Wildwood boardwalk, ripping bootleg shirts off kids and smashing up t-shirt stores with a hatchet. Or someone in the Sean John copyright office wrote some letters, I dunno. Either way, the shirts were gone. Occasionally, the police even raid boardwalk shops selling counterfeit goods. Sacrebleu!
As for the Marilyn Monroe t-shirts above, she’s apparently a hot t-shirt item right now, with Miami’s Purple Heart Clothing putting her on a variety of shirts. As Purple Heart’s Marilyn Monroe x Dwyane Wade shirt notes, “Purple Heart Clothing is in no event licensed and/or affiliated with the National Basketball Association (‘NBA’) or any NBA team members.” Knockoffs of questionable products! Such is the bootlegging circle of life.
I like popular music!
These are the boys from One Direction, I think? There were about a million of shirts with these doofuses on them, and just as many “Call me maybe” and Mac Miller (??) shirts. I even spotted a few leftover LMFAO shirts from last year. People may not buy music anymore, but at least they buy … um, unlicensed t-shirts on the boardwalk. I guess artists are screwed out of money no matter what.
I, too, wear an ill shirt.
Back in 2008, the Phillies were riding the wave to a World Series championship and Center City sneaker-and-clothing boutique Ubiq capitalized on it. They took the ‘ill’ part of the Phillies logo and made a t-shirt out of it, something we will never, ever, ever forgive them for.
To be fair, the shirts were kind of neat at first. I’ve been a fan of using ‘ill’ for Philadelphia ever since The Roots’ Illadelph Halflife, but while I liked the shirt, I never got around to buying one. This isn’t the first time my laziness has saved me, but it’s the most important. Since the Ubiq shirts were just a ripped-off Phillies logo, every doofus with a screenprinter was able to make as many as they wanted without really feeling too bad. And now ill shirts are everywhere, in every color and variation. There’s even a combination ill/LOVE t-shirt that will haunt my nightmares forever. There’s even a bedazzled ill shirt. And now there are variations (fly, LOVE, etc.) and argh I can’t even write about this without getting furious.
I enjoy sports!
Wildwood sports boardwalk t-shirts used to revolve completely around the Eagles and then, a bit later, Allen Iverson. With the rise of the Phillies—well, until recently—the majority of Philadelphia t-shirts now are Phillies-related.
But what I really enjoyed were these “HEY, [x]!” shirts with a mascot giving the finger. You know, the Phillie Phanatic is pretty much a jerk, so it makes sense he’d be flipping the bird. But what’s up with the Dallas Cowboys one? That’s not Rowdy, their mascot! But while the Cowboys are all that is evil and unholy about the world, it is pretty great that you can get a t-shirt with an unlicensed Rex Ryan giving the finger on it that says “HEY, EVERYONE!” I hate the Jets, but I considered getting that shirt.
I enjoy getting drunk or smoking pot.
Alcohol and marijuana are the only drugs that people really blatantly love in public anymore. Nobody wears shirts about how much they like cigarettes. Even the conspicuous cocaine consumption t-shirts are more about making tons of money selling cocaine.
But weed and alcohol are popular enough to inspire a ton of tacky shirts. Considering weed is illegal and the only people dumb enough to buy red solo cup t-shirts are underage, these shirts seem like more of an invitation for probable cause than a trendy fashion statement. Still, while unwearable, some of them are so bad they’re good. I didn’t see my favorite horrible weed shirts—”Sonic the Hemphog” and “Harry Pothead and the Sorcerer’s Stoned”—this trip, but I have to assume they’re still out there.
I enjoy having sex.
You know these shirts: “68: Do me and I’ll owe you one,” the Jersey Shore-inspired “Down to Fuck” shirt, et cetera. They’re tacky and dumb and exactly what you’d expect to be selling on the Wildwood boardwalk.
You’ll notice the shirt on the right above is actually for a baby. Even though it’s about breastfeeding it’s still a clear innuendo. And it’s about a baby. I don’t know if there are any studies about toddlers who wear “whose tit do I have to suck to get a drink around here” shirts, but I assume they all turn out to be total degenerates.
I enjoy being offensive in some way
Ha ha, get it? A girl tells you a story, but you’d rather have her make you a sandwich because women! In the kitchen! If Daniel Tosh had just said this, nobody would have been offended at all!
I enjoy wearing a classic boardwalk t-shirt.
Here they are, right next to each other, two t-shirts that have been sold on the Wildwood boardwalk for at least 20 years. The “Warn a Brother” t-shirts have staying power because they appeal, I think, to two groups: (1) Black people commenting on police abuses against minorities, and (2) racists.
The “Stop the tram car, please” t-shirt with the duck on it is mystifying. Where did it come from? Is it old enough to be a Howard the Duck parody? Is it supposed to be a seagull and the messed-up design stayed with us for decades? That is a duck, right? My brain has been working overtime the past few days in a futile attempt to figure it out.
See, going to the boardwalk and thinking about t-shirts really exercises your brain. And I haven’t even considered trying to wrap my head around why a girl would buy boy shorts with the term “[Boyfriend's name] bitch” on it. That might make my head explode.