It was blue, with a graphic in the center, modeled after the Grant Theft Auto art, those colorful grids of sexy, violent imagery that adorn the covers of video games in that series. Only, on this shirt, believe it or not, things were done a bit differently. The central text read: “ITALIA: MEME CITY.” Around that text, where there might normally be pictures of muscle-bound dudes with guns, or large-chested women with guns, was a grid of famous Italian tourist destinations: the tower of Pisa, the Coliseum, and so on. And superimposed in front of each scene was one of those stick-figure reddit “meme” characters. I can’t remember the details — I was so flustered I didn’t even take a picture — but for the sake of this blog post, imagine the “Me Gusta Face” in front of the Spanish Steps and, like, the “Forever Alone Guy” on a gondola in Venice. The “Challenge Accepted Guy” in front of the leaning tower. Shit like that. (In fact, these made-up examples might make a great deal more sense than what was probably on the shirt. The meme-to-landmark assignments struck me as even more random.)
There are few souvenirs better than a bizarre, failed novelty shirt. They reaffirm the existence of national and cultural boundaries in a globalizing world. And, above all else, they remind us how dumb the makers and wearers of novelty t-shirts are.
I couldn’t bring myself to buy it, because I couldn’t imagine anyone getting why this was so funny. Ironically liking memes only works well on the Internet, when everyone knows you’re too savvy (or fancy yourself too savvy) for that. In real life, I’d look like a grown man who really likes reddit memes, which, guys, I’m totally not.