T-Shirt Etiquette

T-shirtsIn the running community the wearing of race T-Shirts has become a sign of accomplishment and fashion. Choosing just the right T-Shirt for that special occasion can be a daunting and difficult task. The following guidelines have been compiled (in fun) to help the responsible T-shirt wearer avoid potential embarrassment and/or elevate their perceived status in the running community.

  1. A shirt cannot be worn unless the wearer has participated in the event. Significant others and volunteers are exempt.
  2. Any race shirt, less than a marathon distance, shouldn’t be worn to an ultra event. It simply doesn’t represent a high “cool factor” and sends a red flag regarding your rookiness. It’s like taking a knife to a gunfight. If you set a PB at the Pikes Peak Marathon, definitely wear that shirt whenever possible.
  3. When you are returning to a race in which you previously finished, then wear the shirt from the first year that you completed the race. Don’t short-change yourself by wearing the shirt from the year before. It doesn’t adequately display the feat of accomplishment or the consummate veteran status that you are due.
  4. Never wear a race shirt from the race you are about to run. It displays a lack of running integrity and might put the bad-heebee-jeebee-mojo on you for the race. Wearing a T-shirt of the race, while currently running said race, is discouraged. It’s like being at work and constantly announcing “I’m at work”. Besides, you wont have the correct post-race shirt then… Unless you like to wear sweaty, pitted- out clothes on a regular basis. If you do, then go back to the swamp, Gomer.
  5. Never wear a shirt from a run that you did not finish. To wear a race shirt is to say “I finished it”.
  6. A DNF’er may wear a race shirt if… the letters DNF are boldly written on the shirt in question (using a fat Sharpie or a Marks-A-Lot). The only way that you can proudly wear a shirt for a race that you didn’t finish: if you sustained a compound fracture, gouged eye, or lost an appendage during said event. Stress fractures don’t count!
  7. During a race, the wearing of shirt from a previously completed year is acceptable. Wear the oldest T-shirt you have (see guideline #3). This is probably a good practice because you now have no excuse to drop out since you’ve done it before.
  8. Get a second T-shirt for sucking up. If possible, runners should buy significant others (they let you run the race in the first place – Think kitchen pass!) T-shirts that can be worn without regard to running the race. (see guideline #1)
  9. Volunteers have full T-shirt rights and all privileges pertaining thereto. So there.
  10. No souvenir shirts. Therefore, friends or anyone else not associated with the race may not wear a race shirt. If mom thinks that the Boston shirt is lovely, tell her to QUALIFY, & send in her application early for next year so she can earn her own. A downside to this: she still has plenty of time to write you out of her will between her training runs for the big race. Note: your mom CAN wear your finisher’s shirt under one of these three conditions: a) You live with your mother. b) She funded your trip to the race. c) She recently bailed you out of the slammer. There is an exception to this rule (refer to guideline #15).
  11. Always wear the race shirt of your last race at the current race’s pre-race briefing. The more recent the race, the better. This is a good conversation starter. However, avoid the tendency to explain how that it was a training run for this and this is just a training run for the next, etc. It just sounds like your rationalizing mediocre performances. Sometimes it’s best to live in the here and now. (“I’ve never been more prepared for a race! This is the big one!)
  12. It must be clean, but dried bloodstains are okay, especially if it is a trail race or a particularly tough event. If you’re an ultra-runner, you can even leave in mud and grass stains (and porcupine quills). Not washing-out the skunk scent is pushing the macho thing a bridge too far, though.
  13. Never wear a T-shirt that vastly out-classes the event you’re running. It’s like taking a gun to a knife fight or like unleashing an atomic bomb among aboriginal natives. You get the idea.
  14. A corollary: never wear a blatantly prestigious T-shirt downtown or at the mall among non-running ilk. People will just think you have a big head, which you do. You’ll also get stupid questions, like, “How long was that marathon?” If it’s a shirt to a 50 or 100-miler, they’ll think it’s a shirt for a cycling event or just think you’re frigging nuts, which (of course), you might be.
  15. The Bryner Guideline: Never wear a shirt that has more sponsors listed on it than people that ran in the event. (Are you listening, race directors?) A shirt with too many logos on it is just plain ugly. By the way, you can let ANYONE wear this shirt; non-finishers and distant relatives, alike. If you respect your spouse or mother, though, you won’t let either of them wear it. You CAN wear it to change your jalopy’s oil or as part of a Halloween costume. It would also serve well in a gerbil cage.
  16. Never wear a shirt that is so old, thin, and threadbare that you can see the color of your nipples or chest hair. This seems to be just a guy thing, especially and old-codger-runner-guy thing. Here’s the test guys: if you’re too scared to machine wash your 1976 Tab Ten-Miler shirt for fear of it wafting down the drain as mere subatomic particles, then it’s probably too transparent to wear into public. If you can (still) remember your great performance at that particular day and you want to save it for posterity, PLEASE have it framed so that you can keep it on the wall of your den or your “I love me” room, and (at least) out of our sight. Better yet, have it sewn into a quilt. You can then sit on your couch and read back-copies of Runner’s World, cuddled up with your “runner’s binky”, with a glass of warm milk.
  17. T-shirts must be used sensitively. Worn responsibly, they can help expand one’s consciousness and immerse you in a great conversation with your running brethren. Worn stupidly, they can cause fright, horror, vacant stares, sprained ankles, and general social unrest.

Please note: I didn’t write this, but darned if I can find out who did. I did do some minor editing and additions, but I can’t take credit for the bulk of this article, only the sentiment.

Originally published December 24, 2003.