Several years ago I went to Mardis Gras in New Orleans and there was a preacher with a bullhorn yelling at the crowd: “What is it with the beads? Why are you women exposing yourselves for 25 cents worth of plastic beads?”
It was a fair question. And when it comes to the AJC Peachtree Road Race the uninitiated might ask, “What is it with the shirts?”
But for many runners it’s all about the shirt. All of it – the training, the early wake up on a holiday and sweating through a 6.2 mile race.
Last weekend I decided to pull out my collection of Peachtree T-shirts to vulgarly wallow in loot accumulated over the last 20 years.
One of the first things I noticed was I used to wear the shirts a lot more. I’m still not one to seal them in plastic on July 5th and lock them in a vault. But I do tend to put them away for the winter and only wear the oldest ones a couple of times during the summer. I earned my first one in 1979 and wore it past its useful life span. I don’t know what happened to it.
You can see in the photo that my 1991 shirt in the lower left corner is faded. That one doesn’t come out of the drawer very often.
I noticed the shirts reflect Atlanta’s corporate history, as sponsors come and go over the years. In 1991 sponsors included extinct former Atlanta corporate notables BellSouth Mobility and C&S National Bank. On every shirt since 1993 Wachovia has had its logo prominently displayed. Since Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008 and is now phasing out the brand, it figures that long sponsorship streak will end.
Some sponsors have a logical fitness connection, but others are a bit puzzling. Last year Powerade and Reebok were two with clear tie-ins. But what was up with the 1996 shirt presence of Janssen Pharmaceutica, a manufacturer of medicine for mental disorders? (Help for the shirt-obsessed?)
Of course, most people focus more on the shirt’s design than the relatively small logos below. I tend to side with the design minimalists who say the older, simpler designs were better. Like the 1979 shirt. That I threw away.
The 2004 “Property of…” shirt stands out as one of the most-disliked, but not necessarily because of a design issue. The problem was the fabric felt uncomfortable. The tag says it was manufactured, as usual, in Mexico with U.S. fabric. But it definitely had a different feel than the years before and after. (Different = not in a good way)
So do you wear your Peachtree shirt until it’s threadbare and then throw it away? Or do you preserve it in amber for posterity?