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My Moment in the Limelight

In My White Tee

By Kishan BaskaranPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
My Moment in the Limelight
Photo by Haryo Setyadi on Unsplash

The Year at Hand …


I was 16 years old. I was in grade 10.

This was my second year of private school. I was surrounded by rich folks. Asian. White. Black. Brown. Everyone you could think of. They all had money and came from a wealthy background. The only traits I shared with them was that I am brown and I was there for an education, without my consent. Wealth or no wealth, barely scraping through the bills and sometimes living on money we didn’t have. That would not limit my education. But everything else in life the dollar saw an effect. One pair of sneakers a year, if lucky. The next one came when they fell apart! Clothes were hand-me downs from my two older brothers. A fashion sense was irrelevant and not even possible.

Before I get into my fashion sense, the year at hand was interesting on its own. The biggest songs in the year both were from Usher. He had the world screaming “YEAH.” We were all rushing to movie theaters to watch the newly released third Harry Potter film, “PRISONER’S OF AZKABAN” and sequel to Tobey Maguire’s “Spiderman.” Pop culture was defined by the movement of music that defined its time. A new era was starting and we didn’t know it, but I was a part of the curve. The rock, grunge, and punk era was ending. Everything outside hip hop was becoming the niche market. Most people wanted to hear the upbeat, feel good music. With the changing of the guard, the fashion also changed. Some trends had to die for the new ones to be birthed. Some fads survived but many were buried deep in the ground where no one could find them.

Let’s go back to the fact that I was in private school, it is very important. I wore the same outfit everyday all school year except for the one Friday once a month and if I was lucky sometimes twice. The same old black Doc Martens, grey socks, white collared shirt with the school crest, red tie with the school crest, and black sweater, with guess what, the school crest. When these Fridays came around, it was time for everyone to flex their new swag (their new clothes). These kids had me super jealous. They had pieces of clothes that I dreamed about. Brands that I couldn’t even walk into the stores they were sold at. Jordans, I could tell you every piece of history about, but couldn’t think of a day that they would be on my feet. That was then. I had on a pair of baggy track pants, sometimes Nike, and a ripped t-shirt that usually was wrinkled, stained, and had a few holes or two. That was me in a world that I never belonged to!

Back at home with the people I called my friends and family, I could be me. Some looked like me and my family’s financial worries wouldn’t make me feel different. They dressed and acted like me. If they were dressed like those private school brats, they were usually hustlers. The line I wouldn’t cross for an item of clothing or sneaker. Regardless of wealth, my morality would always remain in check!

The Time As I Remember

The change in generations was upon us and we would never have noticed. The difference was we respected those before us and paid homage to them moving forward. The music of the youth, not the sound that parents and their parents were listening too. The music had to be different but so did the fashion. I didn’t have money and the real people who surrounded me didn’t either. We were living at the start of a new wave but we were surfing blindfolded.

When the summer was ending, our prayers were answered. The song that would change my future music preferences but gave me confidence in my life. Dem Franchize Boyz dropped “WHITE TEE.” Wait a second. A white tee. That shirt my mom makes me wear under my hoodies, under my dress shirts. Are you serious. Something we all had. Something we could all afford. Something I knew that I could afford. The video and the song made everything outside the tee shirt irrelevant. No one cared if I had the new Air Maxes, Adidas Superstars or Jordan 1’s on. It was all about the white tee. The baggier the better. Oversized and the longer fit was the vibe. I could walk outside of my front door with my head up high not questioning a single thing I had on. Everyone around me with the same shirt on. Different pants, different hats, and even different shoes but no one cared. The staple was the same. A white tee. If you were rich the tee was a higher brand name. For us it was Wal-Mart and Zellars. Even Bi-Way and the Dollar Store if we had no choice. I could go to Wal-Mart and buy a cheap white tee for $10 and if I was lucky, even cheaper. Imagine being 16 years old with no job, no money, and no ability to get money the legal way! Don’t forget, me and the homies could walk into the mall and buy 5 white tees for $30 at Champs. That was $6 a tee. It was astounding that $6 could make me feel cool. Build my confidence. Make me feel like a million dollars.

It may have not been the most influential fashion trend in the world but it was the most important in my life. I was fat in most people’s eyes but I thought I was chubby. The opposite sex was not showing me any attention. At 16, that’s all I cared about outside of friends and family. I had no money, no girl, and what resulted in no confidence. But that 2004 summer changed the rest of my life. That white tee created an equal playing field. The fashion and the music was now the same. I could walk outside with my head held high without the fear that it shouldn’t be up. The best part was no one could bring it down. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. In my own clothes.

The summer ended and I had to go back to school. The same uniform and for the most part the same people. But something did change. I didn’t care that that they had more money than me. That they drove a nicer car. That they had a trust fund. In my head, I was always that white tee. My confidence was now that clean crisp white tee. Life did go forward. Fashion never impacted my life the same way. Regardless of what everyone wore that white tee survived in my closet until this day in 2021. The way it fits may have changed with the writings on the wall but in my mind I will always be wearing a white tee!


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