T-shirts are cool again

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

Nothing says township quite like the name skipper. It means captain in my dictionary, but it means T-shirt in most South African 'hoods.

And, it doesn't matter if it comes with a collar and should, therefore, be called a golf shirt, or if it's sleeveless, the name will suffice.

In the township, it's called a skipper. It's been called that since the days when blackjacks were real civil servants.

These days, any good public relations department knows that to throw in a T-shirt in company freebies doubles up as free advertising.

It shows that T-shirts have always been a way of life. But, just like everything undergoes a facelift every now and then, the T-shirt has made a comeback in a big way, and with good reason too.

Wandi Nzimande of Loxion Kulca agrees that the rag industry is still a relevant business venture to dabble in.

"The trick is to make sure that the brand, styling and marketing talks to the target market," he said prior to his company's 10th anniversary function at Moyo's recently.

"T-shirts are less expensive. They are the epitome of youthfulness.

"They exude individuality and always engage with the on-looker and there is none so curious and globally alert as the youth," says fashion editor Caroline Mahambehlala.

The founders of Soft Serve, a T-shirt-making company, offer the same reasons for their keen and undying belief in the business.

It's a dream that two friends couldn't let go, even as money became scarce when they tried to get their business off the ground.

"We've always said that even if we managed to raise funds in our old age, we would pursue this business because we believe it's timeless," one of them says.

And to prove the point, even the matronly types spot T-shirts lately.

I have to admit to coyly placing an order, not sure if I still have the body for a T-shirt.

Do bad bodies also count for the many failures in the clothing business?

They say everyone should know what looks better on them.

"Big T-shirts are not a very bright idea these days," a fashion expert says.

But just as we saw AmaKip-Kip T-shirts blow up and die, what are the chances that Soft Serve will not get counterfeited and rubbished by bootleggers?

The owners say they are not worried about that as their innovation knows no bounds.

And, looking at their very daring, intricate and thought-provoking designs, one can't help but agree.

Actually, that's how they managed to get their parents to be financially interested.

"Once they saw what we could offer, they realised that ours was not pie in the sky," one of the Soft Serve founders says.

Everyone knows you cover up and forget about rocking them silly in winter.

But, one of Soft Serve's models, Lorraine, says she wears her T-shirts everywhere and with anything.

"I can wear mine with something warmer underneath, maybe a jacket and, believe it or not, with a suit to work," she says.