I love seeing the different T-shirts that are on show in Sanlitun, Beijing. There is a whole lot of high fashion, top designs, unbelievable brand alignments and some amusing spelling mistakes or liberal use of the word f*ck. I mean, where else would you see the Simpsons on a Vans T-shirt or the proverbial F-word as a pattern all over a shirt?
The spelling mistakes displayed on some t-shirts make sense to me because if you have tried to use a word translator for Mandarin to English, you will see that you get some words within the converted sentence that much confuse the life out of you. Or, better still, think of the westerners that get a Chinese themed tattoo only to be informed they have got written on their body something that is not entirely in line with their intrinsic values.
I am an avid people watcher, and part of that is clocking how cool some people look just by how they carry themselves and in what they wear. I am working up to have the nerve to take some of their photographs and test my skills in that department – with some fashion people, urban types, street scenes, photography. I will probably start with a telephoto sense and creep out in the background afar from my subject. I will be envisioning myself as Sean Penn in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty… I mean, the guy with the white hair and the yellow pantsuit strutting across the square in Sanlitun is a canny double for a snow leopard.
That is the challenge for me. Gaining the bottle to grab the pictures I want to take will come once I get over myself. I can see a real Instagram account themed around interesting T-shirts with great inspiration designs or thought-provoking quotes…
And this is what put me onto this train of thought for today. Sometimes I hear someone say something, and I think that is an outstanding quote and that you should put that on a t-shirt. This is what I heard today from someone who was desperately frustrated with their boss, who was constantly trying to block and depress their creativity in trying to solve a problem.
“Picasso wouldn’t be Picasso if every time he tried to paint a masterpiece, someone pissed onto the oils on his paintbrush.”
Now that is genius. As a big Picasso fan and a fan of t-shirts, I laughed my cubist little ass off, and then I thought, that would be a great T-shirt. The words are written in Helvetica Neue type, right above the Dove of Peace. Oh, I laughed. Then I got a slap in the leg for not taking the complaint seriously.
I was listening; honestly, I was.
Apologies abound, I emptied my head of the art and designs that I had created in my head. I got back to listening to the frustrations of trying to guide a complicated export-import from Japan to China quickly and efficiently.
I worked on my empathy and focused on coaching out a solution to the problem.
“So your boss thinks you should try a different way?”
“Yeah, but they don’t even know what they are doing. She came from a different department and wants to change things after a day’s experience. She doesn’t even take the time to understand the process.”
I nodded. Intently.
“If only she knew.”
I thought to myself, where have I heard that before! (is this suitable for a T-Shirt, not sure?)
The conversation continued, and to me, it was clear as day. In their ultimate wisdom, the all-seeing, all-knowing boss, with skills gained over many minutes of high education, training and familiarisation, took immediate charge and wanted to have an impact. How many times in our life, in your life, have you experienced this? I know you have, and you always go along with it because, well, they are the boss.
I thought of another T-shirt, that cornerstone of fathers day gifts – ‘I am Boss in name only’ (you have seen it, if it is a gift given to you in the future, then wear it with pride)
I continued my coaching in the moment, and I sensed that the solution was beginning to bubble up near to the top of our talk. Creme always rises to the top, and this nugget of insightful action was rising fast.
“What is it you want to do?” I asked
I want to just f*cking do it…
Hell, I thought that would look good on a T-shirt.
But then maybe it’s been done before.
I said in reply, meekly, why don’t you just do it!
And I drifted back to my internal urban photography scene, which now had a much more violent undertone to it. The guy in the yellow jumpsuit was now sporting a black matrix-like outfit. He was leaning back, dodging bullets as I panned my camera to the black swish logo displayed on the shop front in the background…
I heard the words’ Cut, and that’s a wrap’, but they well spelt differently. they were spelt like this…
“Are you even listening to me?”
I thought. Now that has the makings of a great T-shirt.