What is it With the Shirts?

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?

15 comments Add your comment


May 11th, 2010
7:45 am

I have shirts going back to ‘87. The old ones I used to wear all the time. But eventually I decided I would wear the shirt for one year following the race and then rotate it out when I got the new one. I did see where someone had stitched together their old shirts as a quilt, which I may do someday.


May 11th, 2010
10:13 am

It depends on the shirt, if I like the design and the color I’ll wear it more. Also it depends on if I get into the finish in time to still get a small. I hope to make a quilt too, someday.


May 11th, 2010
10:45 am

By the time I get to the finish line, the only ones left fit like a night gown. Could never figure out why they ask us for a size, but pay no attention to it.


May 11th, 2010
3:12 pm

The shirt doesn’t do much for me. I want to get my name in the paper. The day after the race the AJC has printed a full page of names and city/state of race finishers. That’s my goal!


May 11th, 2010
6:03 pm

I had an ex-neighbor of mine put together old Peachtree shirts from my dad and I on a quilt and I love it! I won’t be running this year bc I will be at the beach…I am going to miss this year the tradition of running and then passing out on the couch or by the pool. The tshirts are just a badge of honor in my family.


May 11th, 2010
7:13 pm

I’ve never liked to wear the t-shirts. It isn’t because I’m afraid to get them dirty or because I hold them to be “sacred”. I simply don’t like the way they fit. They are so thick and are always too long on me. Wish they were Hanes brand instead.


May 11th, 2010
7:28 pm

I love laughing at the idiots wearing their shirts for the fireworks at lenox. Congratulations you just finished a race that 50,000 other people finished, but you decided to wear your new shirt. You are like the guys who wear a bands shirt to the concert. At what point did getting up at 4am to run become a part of the 4rth of July tradition. Frankly, I have more respect for the folks sleeping in. The worst are the folks who almost never run but decide they are going to do this. I know there are real runners. The top 1000 folks who train year round and consider this one of many events they will compete in. They rest of the fools just want the shirt. I can’t believe the police effort, traffic conjestion, tv coverage, and overall pain in the a$$ we are willing to create to give a bunch of idiots a t-shirt. The folks in the top 400 are home before half of bums in this thing are even finished. I can’t imagine a dumber way to spend a hot summer holiday morning. I am guessing these are the same folks that camp out for thanksgiving shopping. If you convince them it is a tradition they will keep doing it. Ba Hum bug


May 11th, 2010
8:28 pm

I like mine because big fat lazy people who eat bon bons and watch Oprah can’t buy one.


May 11th, 2010
8:32 pm

Fortunately one of the greatest things about our great nation is the freedom to choose our own traditions. What better way to honor our freedoms on our nation’s birthday than choosing our own way of celebrating it? Who is anyone to judge what traditions we engage in to celebrate a holiday? I am of the opinion that our nation should focus more on healthy hobbies – thus I think getting the masses excited about a fun run like the Peachtree is a fabulous tradition. (But I’m also one of the nuts that doesn’t consider my Thanksgiving complete unless I begin it with a half marathon tour of Atlanta). Though a “serious” runner, I support folks who are generally non runners doing something healthy for themselves. Besides the t-shirt, we earn that hamburger and that beer we’ll enjoy later.

My friend… you must not be running enough – a runner’s high might just make you feel better. :)

Ted Striker

May 11th, 2010
9:05 pm

Cool article. Thanks.


May 11th, 2010
9:34 pm

I run every year. And I wear the shirt. But I don’t run for the shirt. I run so I can drink beer and eat wings at 9am that day at Taco Mac, and not feel guilty about it.


June 30th, 2010
6:38 pm

Gary, your probably a fat slob that just wishes you had could run the peachtree or even walk it. Bet 100 dollars you never even tried to run it or even have showed up for the fun.

Losers have a way of always being the negative voice on here. Your probably the type who just lost his mobile home on wheels.

Get a life smuck


July 2nd, 2010
10:15 am

I am new to this “tradition”, running. I only learned of this event early June. Cooper River was my first ever event, a wonder 10K that I will try attend every year I am breathing. In a since these events are about the shirts. You may not wear them but it a footprint in your past that allows you the ablitiy to gage improvements in one self. Anyone who has been unhealthy and has turned their life around can understand this. I myself was very unhealthy, and now am in the best shape of my life, these events give people the motivation to continue a healthy lifestyle, LaurenD’s comments about supporting people that may not be runners, but are at least out there is spot on! Gary, your a sad individual, and am betting that if you attend an event like this, things would make sense! I have every intention to attend this event next year! I want a shirt!


July 2nd, 2010
1:27 pm

Jon, you’re probably right about poor Gary, unfortunately, responding to people who don’t get it only gives them what they are looking for , some sort of validation. Its a great accomplishment for ANYONE to be able to run and finish a 6.2 mile race, no matter what your ability level. The shirts are a terrific “badge of honor” that you really earned throught hard work. I will be adding the 14th to my collection this Sunday. Keep truckin runners….I admire every one of you!!


July 2nd, 2010
11:37 pm

I always admired the people wearing the Peachtree t-shirts. I thought of them as incredibly fit people and strong and dedicated people. I assume Gary hasn’t ever really tried to run…it’s not easy. I for one can attest to how special this race is. I had always wanted to run the Peachtree, but at 347 pounds, it just wasn’t something you did. So I always admired those who did and who proudly wore their t-shirts from afar–until last June. June 1st 2009, I started changing myself. I remember watching segments on the evening news (from my recumbant bike—I couldn’t walk 1/4 mile without stopping at that point) about people who were going to be running the Peachtree and getting teary eyed because I wanted to do it so badly. I sit here lauging at shmucks like Gary right now. People who are miserable so they try to make others miserable because they don’t have the courage to get up and try. I am 130 pounds lighter since last June (and a non-smoker since Sept. 09…yes, it’s possible to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.) AND I RUN. I’ll run every step of that 6.2 if I can…will I finish in the top 1000? HECK NO. Do I care? NO! Because I’ve already won this race. I won it when I was able to sign up for it knowing I could complete it. So yeah, Gary…that t-shirt will be special. And I will have earned it whether I finish in the top 1000 or not.