Friday, 13 December 2013

Destination T-Shirts - Tourist tat or Love that?

Certain times in your life you find money burning a hole in your pocket, those last few days on holiday where you buy all the tat you can find just to get rid of the money. Rather than stick it in a tip to the overworked maid we rush around buying all wonders of rubbish to bring back to our loved ones. From 'hand' crafted wooden statues to hats with destinations we find any excuse to part ourselves from that hard earned cash.

Over my thirty years on this planet I have received a number of bad t-shirts, from the ridiculous to the just plain pointless. On any given sunny day you just walk around a housing estate and see hundreds of amateur gardeners wearing a random collection of destination t-shirts, from New York to Mexico they are used as the rubbish "get it dirty" t-shirt. The main reason these t-shirts are crap is because someone else gave you it, they actually bought you a momento of the place you didn't go. The adventure and amazing people are second hand you need to forge your own memories, buying the t-shirt from that crazy little shop you found is all part of that experience. So what are the best ways to cement that holiday:

Place Names

The most common type of destination t-shirt is of course a place name t-shirt. Simple and self explanatory these t-shirts showcase where you have been and the more unusual the better. Hard Rock Cafe began a huge trend with their restaurants all around the world featuring the place name and familiar logo. Like all trends it meant the more familiar a place name the less kudos you got for having traveled there. So the key to a good Place Name t-shirt is actually in finding the place that nobody else has been, or perhaps even heard of.

Local Sayings

Being in a foreign country can be exciting and any form of language barrier even if it is just the local slang can provide a good source of conversation. During my time printing t-shirts I often find much hilarity in the arrival of Australians to my sleepy little town of Dunbar. Locally known as 'Sunny Dunny' this conjures up thoughts of a well light toilet for many travelers from down under. The Sunny Dunny t-shirt is a must have for those who discover the rich history of the birth place of the great John Muir and the sunniest place in Scotland.


Being ironic is an art form in the UK, t-shirts with ironic sayings are  very common, but finding them especially in the US is a difficult task. They just don't get irony. So what makes a great ironic t-shirt, the double bluff? or perhaps a simply statement of non fact? Well the beauty of it is most t-shirts are relatively straight forward, so people will be confused if irony is in play or not.

Just Plain Weird
We all love the random nature of life and purchasing a destination t-shirt which is so strange you just got to have it is a great way to tell a story from your travels, one that might keep the audience engaged for all of fifteen seconds. Local politics and strange habits will be the most common strange t-shirts that nobody outwith the local area will get. Perhaps a misplaced t-shirt, like finding a Golden Eagle emblazoned t-shirt in a back alley of Iraq. You find the more remote the destination the more likely you are to find an unusual item. On a trip to John O Groats (the tip of mainland UK for those not hot on geography) a friend of mine discovered a 'golliwog' which used to feature as a character on jam jars but were rightly taken out of public sale due to their racist connotations. The shop keeper was astonished to find they actually sold them but happily sold the doll to my friend. That kind of unusual item carries a lot of value, not because of the value of the actual item but because of the story it comes with.

All the examples are from our back catalogue of printed tops made for numerous tourists from all over the globe. Scottish T-shirts are hugely popular with tourists, featuring tartan writing or simply celebrating the place they are visiting you can find something for everyone.

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