feat. owner Liz's shop t-shirt collection, back when we sold apparel
Reviewing Haruki Murakami's "Murakami T"
What does your favorite T-shirt say about you? If it’s a Temple Owls tee, you might have played basketball back in college (or cheered them on by the sidelines). If it’s an A24 t-shirt, you might have watched “Hereditary” just a few hundred times. If it’s a Harvard record store tee or a 1998 New York City Marathon tee, you might be world-famous author Haruki Murakami.
In his new publication “Murakami T”, Haruki Murakami takes us through his t-shirt collection, sharing stories and insights into his life along the way. Murakami is a collector at heart: his famous vinyl collection reaches well into the hundreds and harkens back to his previous life as a jazz bar owner. Although his t-shirts have never garnered as much public interest as his music tastes or running habits, they offer some keen insight into the man behind blockbuster novels like "Kafka on the Shore" and "Norwegian Wood". Reading Murakami often feels like plunging into a parallel universe. By contrast, Murakami himself is ordinary, someone who writes seriously but doesn't take himself seriously.
"Murakami T" offers an intimate look at a writer's life through his clothes. Flip through the book and you'll find gems like a Planet Records tee (which inevitably evolves into a list of the best cities for record shopping), and no less than four surf-themed tees ("In the 1980s... I did hardly any work and just enjoyed some laid-back, lazy time. That was a fun life I had back then!"). Heavily featured are t-shirts he doesn't often wear but still hold a lot of sentimental value. There's a Guiness logo shirt ("Have you ever tried a Guiness in its home town? Talk about tasty") and a Yale 2016 Commencement tee from the time he received an honorary doctorate ("Pretty cool, huh? But there's nothing particularly good connected with an honorary doctorate. No prize money, no special privileges. All you get is a flimsy little diploma"). You get the feeling that, unlike records, Murakami doesn't seek out particular t-shirts; they come into his life as gifts or spur-of-the-moment purchases, and then pretty much stick around for the next couple years.
Murakami has never written a quote-un-quote Serious Memoir, but looking through his previous "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and now with "Murakami T" you feel as though he might not need to. His life, and as thus his art, is just running commentary. There's no need for deep psychological analysis, no 6-volume "My Struggle" monstrosity to plow through. To know Murakami is as easy as walking a mile in his shoes (or t-shirts). This handy guide is just the cherry on top.
This approach to collecting inspired us to go through our own t-shirt collections, rediscovering old gems and memories along the way. A T-shirt may be is something we wear every day but that doesn't mean it's not special. While our closets may feature just a handful of items designed for special-occasion days (wedding dresses, cap and gowns, funeral attire), the humble t-shirt is more likely to represent the person we show up as every day, not just when we're expected to look our best. Also, have you ever tried to get rid of a t-shirt? It's hard. Even the ugliest oversize high school charity marathon tee tends to have a sort of mysterious grip on us. The t-shirts we keep through the years could just as easily stand for life markers, records of the ordinary days turn out to be important. Concert tees, marathon tees, alumni tees: these sum up the events of a life well-lived. In a time of pandemics and stay-at-home orders it's likely they came into higher rotation than usual, as our wardrobes craved coziness and comfort above all else.
What was your favorite t-shirt from this pandemic year? A presidential election slogan? A concert tee from your first live performance? A brewery where you sipped pints outdoors with friends to celebrate getting vaccinated? Maybe it was the same shirt you've been wearing since 2015, a constant in this rolling sea of confusion.
Amateurs will be tempted to pair a Murakami book with a bowl of ramen, but the reality is that a simple, no-more-than-3-ingredients sandwich and a pint of ice cold Asahi will do the job just fine. Make it a special occasion by wearing your favorite t-shirt.
What to Read Next
Whether you're already a fan of Murakami's work or just an intrigued bystander, here are three reads we recommend picking up next:
- "Norwegian Wood" is the OG, the first international hit, the ultimate star-crossed lovers set to the Beatles' greatest hits. Come for the characters, stay for the music, the mood, and the turbulence of sixties student life in Tokyo.
- "1Q84" This novel explores two narratives: a girl who enters an alternate Tokyo in 1984, and her childhood sweetheart who has become a ghostwriter for a mysterious new writer. Long? Yes. Insanely readable? Also yes. Plus you can tell people at parties that you read it and everyone will be very impressed indeed.
- "Breasts and Eggs" by Mieko Kawakami - Let's say you love Murakami's style but you're also kinda over his weird portrayal of women (fair enough). You could read this novel by Mieko Kawakami instead, which is about about two sisters living in Osaka and Tokyo as they experiment with and ruminate on cosmetic surgery. Unputdownable.