Wildwood Boardwalk T-Shirt Update: What’s In, What’s Out

A lot has changed since the start of the summer.

Summer is nearing its end. There’s about five weeks left until the solstice, but we all know the unofficial end of summer is what really matters. Labor Day isn’t even sneaking up on us: The stores are filled with Halloween candy. Bars are already stocking pumpkin beer for the messed-up people who think it’s okay to drink pumpkin-flavored things in August.

That means it’s time for an update! As part of Philly mag’s ongoing ownership of tacky Wildwood boardwalk T-shirt coverage, I headed down the shore this weekend. And it turned out the popular T-shirts have changed much since my last piece at the beginning of summer.

The biggest change at the shore, of course, is the dress code. There’s even a PSA:

Fortunately, the new Wildwood law hasn’t changed the city’s dress much at all. But the popularity of certain T-shirts has changed in the last few months. Think of the boardwalk T-shirts like popular songs. In a matter of weeks — maybe even days! — fads come and go. The old shirts are still around, but they’ve been shuttled to the back of the store, with hit T-shirts suddenly making their way to the front displays. They might have been bubbling under for a few weeks before exploding in popularity, or they might be new shirts that are instant hits.

As such, think of my Boardwalk T-shirt articles as the Billboard Hot 100 of T-shirts, pre-SoundScan era: It’s incredibly error-prone and it’s based on nothing but what I saw. Instead of rankings, though, let’s look at five T-shirts that were all over the Boardwalk in June and what’s replaced them.


OUT: I Party with Jay Gatsby
IN: Bro, do you even lift?

It seems like The Great Gatsby movie didn’t cause much of a buzz, but it made $144 million domestically and $330 million worldwide and is the eighth-highest grossing summer drama ever. Still, it’s been months since it opened, and kids down the shore have their already short teenage memories fried from baking out in the sun all day. Perhaps this is why the inappropriately messaged “I Party with Jay Gatsby” shirt was popular at all.

“Bro, do you even lift?” T-shirts have no doubt been around all summer, but they’re all parked in the front of stores now. The Internet meme — sparked by random comments on lifting messageboards and popularized by 4chan/Anonymous — has its roots from forum posts made last decade, and its popularity (as measured by Google searches) peaked in December 2012. Leave it to Wildwood to catch on now.


OUT: Twerk
IN: #ratchet

Let’s be clear: Twerk is definitely not “out” and ratchet is definitely not “new.” But twerk is the former No. 1 single that is slowly falling down the charts. It’s Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” of the T-shirt Hot 100, sitting at No. 21 and still popular but definitely past its peak. Meanwhile, #ratchet is that Anna Kendrick song from Pitch Perfect. Incredibly old, but ever-so-slowly gaining in popularity. Per New York, “ratchet” actually dates to Shreveport, Louisiana and a 1999 track from rapper Anthony Mandigo.

Ratchet was a shirt I saw a lot of people wearing on the boardwalk, also, which means its metamorphosis from an insult to a compliment has now spread to suburban white dorks. If only Anthony Mandigo were around to see it! He’s serving life without parole for drug dealing.

OUT: T-shirts identifying you and your partner as a couple without using a gun
IN: T-shirts identifying you and your partner as a couple using a gun

Is this ever depressing. Mickey hands are still around, but the most-advertised “we’re a couple” duo T-shirts I saw on the boardwalk were these “Partners in Crime” ones. I get the idea: The two of you against the world, fighting off all comers and doing whatever you have to do to have each other’s back. Or, rather, that would be the idea if the guns weren’t pointed at the other person. Yikes.

OUT: “Hakuna Matata” T-shirts
IN: Despicable Me’s Minions

It’s still around in the backs of stores, but the inexplicable popularity of a catchphrase from a 1994 movie seems to have faded as quickly as it appeared this summer. In its place are bootleg T-shirts featuring the Minions, the sidekicks of Felonious Gru in Despicable Me 2 and — considering how much money the movie brought in — Comcast’s July employees of the month.

OUT: Wearing a stupid catchphrase on a T-shirt
IN: Wearing a stupid catchphrase on a pair of sunglasses

Okay, so T-shirts aren’t “out” per se. But not only did I see a ton of stupid catchphrase sunglasses for sale, I saw a bunch of people wearing them! And I didn’t arrive to the boardwalk until it was already dark out. Clearly, stupid sunglasses are the future of the Wildwood boardwalk.

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