You Need This... I Promise

The Short-Sleeved Striped Tee

red and natural stripes 
Today is the first day of June and it is HOT here. Not that I am complaining – but it just comes on so quickly! One day it is beautiful and the mornings have some chill to them and then it is suddenly WAY hot. Hot like when you touch your steering wheel after your car has been parked in the sun, or like the walk down to the beach from the top of the dunes, when you are practically jumping over the burning sand. Hot like when you sweat between your breasts and it leaves a damp spot on the middle of your t-shirt. Ahh – the t-shirt. That is what I am feeling right now. A NEW t-shirt. One of the easiest pick-me-ups there is.

When we first moved down here, people from my past (mostly in the north) would ask how I was dealing with the heat, "Hotlanta" being a national nickname although I have never heard it much around here. But while it does get hot here, honestly, it is no worse than New York in the summertime. At least the New York I lived in. The streets are steamy with so many people in close proximity, all sweating and anxious to get where they are going. And there is no heat like the one when you descend the steps of the subway in July or August. Sid and I used to take cold showers before bed when we lived in our loft on Duane Street. We would hit the sheets still wet, with a box fan at the end of the bed, and it was like real air conditioning for about five minutes. After a few weeks of this, he finally rode the subway up to the Bronx to buy a window unit at Sears, and splurged on a cab to bring it back home. An all-afternoon affair. I have no memory of how he rigged it up as our windows were easily 6 feet across, but I do remember that that tiny unit hardly made a dent in the heat.

A cold shower works at night but there is not much – other than an extra airy sundress or a bikini – that you can wear to keep yourself cool and stay decent. A short-sleeved t-shirt is my go-to. Something tiny and simple that delivers so much style. I have written about striped tees before – the boatneck one with long sleeves, still an all-time favorite. But to quote my daughter Harriet (on the subject of endless teen magazines in the checkout aisle,) "this one is different." I will try not repeat myself, but t-shirts in general lend themselves to collecting. You might splurge on a new one for any number of reasons. (And it is usually not so much of a splurge compared to the rest of the closet: a dress, a jacket, a pair of shoes, a bag.) It is a lot like a new pair of jeans in that you can always use one more. One may have a collar that looks a little nicer… or the cotton feels extra soft… or the fit is more flattering… or the screen print is kicky… and I can always find room for another stripe. Cheery and easy and slightly sporty.
a head scarf is a good print add, too

The contrast neckline on these gives them a bit of a vintage vibe. I grew up collecting t-shirts in the 70s, and the holy grail of the vacation was always the souvenir shop. I had graduated from the little tomahawks and rabbit feet you could get near Lake Bemiji in Minnesota by the time I got invited on a trip to the beach with my best friend Julie Harvey. We were probably 12 at the time and had a ball hanging out at the hotel pool. The t-shirt I ended up with had two feet symbolizing 'hang ten' and of course Fort Myers Beach in bubble letters at the bottom so it could serve as proof once we got home. I also remember buying some orange blossom perfume at the state line gas station depot, probably burning up all the spending money I had brought for the trip. The Fort Myers t-shirt was hardly an investment piece… but t-shirts make a worthy collectible because you never have to worry about occasions that may or may not be on the horizon. "It's beautiful but I just don't have any place to wear it" – no one says that about a t-shirt!

And I remember taking my girls to the mall for their own budding collections as well. It made things easy for me, especially when they were younger and I was still facilitating their outfits… stripes go with everything. We spent a lot of time in the dark cave of the Hollister store. I kind of liked it in there. The California vibe was well executed (if a little over the top) and their tees were GOOD! Believe it or not, they were kind of timeless – at least the ones we picked up: ringer styles with the contrast collar band, or retro-feeling colorful stripes. If they could fit, they might still be wearing them. For me, the key to this type of t-shirt is a trim cut. Not tight, necessarily, but I prefer a more fitted shape to something very oversized. Ours is cut with just the right amount of trimness. Wearing it fitted looks more retro to me – Francoise Hardy-style – but when you go up a size from your usual, it looks slouchy and cool (but not sloppy) in a completely different way. I've mostly been a crewneck girl over the years, but lately I have been loving the V-neck which feels less expected. And most women tell me that they find that kind of neckline especially flattering. Any one of them would look great over a pareo skirt (I love to mix a print with stripes.) The track shorts are another kicky way of mixing prints. This wrap skirt would be amazing with it for a slightly more dressed up feel. And 8 times out of 10, I am wearing mine with white cropped flare jeans.

The thing I like about these is how they can casualize and elevate. With something like that linen wrap skirt, a striped tee can take it down a notch for daytime. Add some flat sandals and you looks like you could be walking to the beach in Capri. But the stripes can also make a basic t-shirt and jeans look slightly more pulled-together. Imagine a plain white t-shirt with blue jeans, which is very chic, of course. But when you swap it out for a striped version… just as classic, but feels a little more considered. No matter how you style it, a t-shirt means comfort – and in this case, cool. As much as I love that boatneck, this is all I want to be wearing these days. Though I wear long sleeves plenty in the summer (air conditioning can get extreme here,) there is nothing worse than someone asking, "aren't you so hot?" Insult to injury! Your choice and your pride are equally offended. With short sleeves, you look cool in both temperature and style. Nothing groundbreaking here. But I have two new t-shirts in my closet that I'm digging, and you might need one, too.

From Ann

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