How does one fully capture in words the experience of being on the road? For some, the words may come easily… for others, moments and memories are recorded on film or sketched on paper. And in some cases, the experience can be told through an article of clothing – the boots we wear to walk new roads, or perhaps, and in this case, an old shirt. A trusty item that never leaves your back, that absorbs all of your stories and the sights and scents of the places you’ve been and things you’ve seen. It becomes so much more than an article of clothing, it becomes a part of you, and a piece of the road. The following comes from Sean Spellman of Quiet Life…
I’ve been wearing white v necks since I was 18 years old because Bruce Springsteen wore one on the cover of Darkness on The Edge of Town and Al Pacino robbed a bank in one in the film Dog Day Afternoon. I wasn’t really coming from a fashion perspective, all I really cared about at the time was looking like either of those dudes, and getting five shirts for 10 bucks, which was cheaper than what I could get at Goodwill.
Up until recently, I had this one shirt, a really old one, probably at least 10 years old, that has been everywhere. It was a special one. I wore it when I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in Fairbanks. I spilled coconut and Mezcal on it in Little Havana. It tore when I tried to slip through a fence in Coney Island. It was a good shirt. I left it once, in the desert near Joshua Tree, CA (like many other shirts before) but recovered it soon after in its glory of dust and prickly pear spines, tattered and softened by the high desert sun. The shirt itself began to both deteriorate and conform to my body and in time became directly tied to my American experience. It was all I felt comfortable in and it reminded me of everything I’d seen, people I had met, and roads I had traveled. It smelled like body odor and tacos, like Northwest pine and Pacific dirt. It was softened from napping in the sand in Big Sur and from being hand-washed in roadside motels and occasionally in friends’ pools. It has seen the view from the stage in rock clubs, dive bars, theaters, and honky tonks all over America. From Willie Nelson’s ranch in Luck, TX to my parent’s house in New London, CT, that old shirt’s been there with me through thick and thin. It weathered Hurricane Sandy in coastal New England and saw more than one 4th of July in Asbury Park. It was good to me, but now I’ve got to let it go.
Here’s to hoping its holes never get sewn, its stains never removed and its scent forever preserved. There’s only one way to wear it, and may that lucky soul do so with the windows down, a full tank of gas, and no real direction… just an idea of where they might want to go, one day, if they knew that could be anywhere they wanted.
With today kicking off Earth Month here on BLDG 25, I also wanted to mention that the band travels in a van that runs on waste vegetable oil – very cool!
+ What is your most treasured article of clothing?
For more of Sean’s work visit his website desertretreater.com.