If the T-Shirt Fits, Wear It!
Technology-themed T-shirts have a special place in the heart of a true geek. Like the shirts that music fans wear to honor their favorite bands, tech T-shirts make a statement that only a select few passers-by may understand. Of course, wearing your allegiance on your chest does carry a risk: Running into an enclave of Mac devotees as you traipse around in your Bill Rules shirt might trigger a border incident. And pleasing a roomful of Intel and AMD partisans in equal measure requires a T-shirt with an exceedingly artful message.
The best tech T-shirts are subtle but clever; others, despite their simplicity, deserve praise for the ideas they represent. Some are just plain silly--but we like those, too, because they offer compelling evidence that the people wearing them are even geekier than we are.
We take to heart Shakespeare's observation that the T-shirt slogan makes the geek (okay, what he really said was "the apparel oft proclaims the man")--so much so that we've matched each of our favorite shirts with the likely characteristics of its wearer. And if you happen to be garbed right now in one of the items we've highlighted, all we can say is "Nice shirt!"
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The Geek Elitist
If you have to ask, you've already failed the test. And the wearer of this shirt most certainly will berate you for asking. Anyone who spends $16 to $18 to make this particular statement takes geek pride to an extreme. Yes, “10” is “2” in binary. You can go home now.
The Functional Geek
Sometimes, you need instant confirmation that Internet access is available. On such occasions, wearing the Wi-Fi Detector shirt puts you whole seconds ahead of the average schlemiel who depends on the Wi-Fi locator loaded on his smartphone. Walk into a wireless access zone, and all the people around you will think that they're watching the opening seconds of an RKO PIctures film.
The Retro Wannabe
It doesn't matter that you missed the halcyon days when Microsoft was a budding company with a young and energetic staff, and hadn't yet taken over the world. There's no such thing as being late to a retro T-shirt party. Just pretend that you picked up this “Softwear by Microsoft” item decades ago--and hope that no one asks you how to execute a command line.
The Retro Mac Addict
This shirt would have been cooler a few years ago--back when Apple wasn't the new Microsoft. But even though the indie cred of a Mac shirt may be near zero these days, fans of the fruit will no doubt wear the classic design proudly (there even seems to be something like the Apple markup at work behind the scenes, since this item sells for $23). Want to raise its impact to a whole new level? Write beneath the logo with a fabric pen, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."
The Guy Who Thinks Linux Won
You know this guy, the one who never misses a chance to bash Microsoft and espouse the merits of Linux. No doubt, Linux would solve all the nation's computer woes and bring world peace; but when it comes to sidewalk flame wars, our Linux partisan looks to be an instigator. (Then again, with those downsized Elton John specs, would you take him seriously?) The shirt itself is cute, though the model for the penguin appears to have been Wallace Shawn rather than Uma Thurman.
All Windows users have had occasion to stare at the blue screen of death while repeatedly (and futilely) pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete. But only a small subgroup of victims are inclined to spend $15 on a T-shirt commemorating the experience. Props to anyone who can laugh about fatal computer errors, and who can unexpectedly spot this shirt in a dresser drawer without suffering a panic attack.
The Ice Man, Thawed
“Wait, it's 2009 and no one uses AOL anymore? Who will notify me when I've got mail? Where are the chat rooms, and the buttons I am accustomed to clicking to find information? And what the heck is a Google?” Anyone who dons this shirt is a hopeless case, folks. Try not to point and laugh. (Alternative explanation: Only 2500 of these shirts were made, one for each current subscriber.)
The Encyclopedic Gamer
Never worked your way up to this level of Pac-Man before? Prepare to get laughed at by the wearer of this T-shirt, who knows all too well that the game breaks down on level 256. And don't get him started about that little nook where you can safely park the eponymous yellow dot muncher during bathroom breaks. You just learned way more about Pac-Man than you ever wanted to know.
Folks who nod approvingly at this shirt's message are in the know: Press that sequence of buttons in the title screen of Contra for the NES, and you'll acquire 30 lives when the game begins. But if you do wear this T-shirt, you're sure to run into some ubergamer who will boast about how he beat the game without having to use that wimpy code. (The same T-shirt source also invites you to celebrate your demise as a child geek in the original version of Oregon Trail.)
The Cryptic, Delusional Geek
Oh, whatever can it mean? Is the person wearing this shirt a gadget modder who cracks open sealed cases with reckless abandon? Or is he the guy on the other side of the Genius Bar, preparing to refuse a return on grounds that you violated the ToS? Either way, our impulse would be to walk quickly away from the wearer, firmly clutching any gizmo we cared deeply about.
The Geek Who Has Come to Terms With It
When you pull on a Sun Microsystems T-shirt for the first time, you bid farewell to the last vestige of edgy allure you may once have possessed. Or you're a committed Sun employee who can't resist broadcasting your devotion even on the weekend. Either way, you're clearly headed toward a radically revisionist notion of cool.
This Compuserve T-shirt has it all: a wacky early '90s color scheme, a pixelated mouse pointer, and a dramatic interpretation of the classic globe logo. Ironically, the retro tee on our list that seems most worth wearing has been transformed into a diaper. Call it an early history lesson.
The Heavy-Handed Apple Fan
Here's an example of geekery gone bad. We get that Apple's Mac-Man is on a path to chewing up Microsoft's fleeing Windows, but it's not funny enough to merit fist bumps from fellow fanboys. Still this T-shirt has real value: as a warning of possible Mac nerd rage in the person wearing it.
The Slightly Subtler Apple Fan
This is more like it. The conceit behind this T-shirt is that Apple creates new while Microsoft copies. Who could fail to detect the purity of the designer's smug satisfaction? A more revealing message might point out that the real Microsoft:Apple relationship is something like "copies ugly:copies cute." In the meantime, we're saving our money for a T-shirt that says "Think different, talk grammatic."
The Exception to the Rule
Tech geekery tends to be a guy thing, but there are exceptions. Ands when it comes to these two T-shirts, gender makes all the difference between lame and awesome. We can't help wondering whether these lady geeks ever get shy and have trouble talking to men.
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