[OT] T-Shirts I Don’t Understand

I don’t understand this shirt. At first, I was completely confused, but after some searching, I realized that it was likely a reference to this shirt:

The second shirt is, in turn, a reference to Doppler shifting of light (which, among other things, says that colors shift towards blue if you move towards them quickly enough).

However, this just brings up more stuff I don’t understand:

(1) It doesn’t seem like the blue shirt makes any sense except as a reference to the red shirt. (Or does it?) But is the red shirt so well-known that it makes any sense to wear a shirt that assumes the viewer has seen the red one?

(2) The first shirt says “You don’t need run fast enough.” Is this slang? Or something English speakers might actually say? It doesn’t seem like it is, but I’m baffled by the idea that someone made and sold a T-shirt without proofreading the one sentence on the T-shirt. Yes, I see typos on signs and in newspaper articles all the time, this product only has one sentence, and that one sentence is the focus of the product that they’re trying to sell.

This seems very strange to me. Does this seem perfectly normal to you? Have you seen worse?


  1. (Not fully responsive.)

    When I first learned about this post in planning, I happened a few minutes later to see an ad for some novelty and/or motto tee-shirts. So i clipped and saved it, and now found it again!

    Other mottos from the same site:

    I’m only talking to my dog today [3 or 4 design variants]
    [[chart of the elements box: 26 55.847 orbitals-noted] Fe] male — The original Iron Man
    When this virus is over I still want some of you to stay away from me
    variations on the cat crawling out between the stripes ..

    Not here but elsewhere I have been seeing drastic op-art-like designs that seem to give the wearer a tiny constricted waist.

  2. I realize that my description of “chart of the elements box” was impossible to visualize, so here is the picture:

  3. A reverse image search of each picture turns up many hits of the same two guys wearing many different designs. They are photoshopped, with the designs pasted in, but show exactly the same shadows.

    many of the images come from https://wanelo.com/store/redbubble

    It’s likely that the shirts come from the same artist. Possibly, the intention is you buy one of each, and wear them on alternate days.

  4. Trying to respond to the posted questions:

    (Uh-oh, I’m immediately in a yes-and-no!)

    1a) Yes, of course you can understand the first one on its own. It says the shirt is blue, and by gum it is! There is also a subheading which is too small to read on the run, so it doesn’t confound matters at all.

    1b) No, the idea of a doppler shift does not come up without the other shirt.

    2) No, not standard English, and not a slang or vernacular phrasing, just some carelessness or inattention.

  5. Possibly, the intention is you buy one of each, and wear them on alternate days.

    Or friends or a couple with paired message tees to walk around the mall.

    “I’m with Stupid –> ”
    “<– I’m with ‘I’m with Stupid –>’ “

  6. Don’t overthink it.

    No, the original red shirt is not well known enough to assume people will get the blue shirt but the fact that its an inside joke will appeal to the audience these shirt manufacturers wish to attract.

    “The first shirt says “You don’t need run fast enough.” Is this slang? Or something English speakers might actually say?”

    No, and No. It’s that one shirt says “this shirt is blue: if X”. The second shirt “this shirt is blue: you don’t need X”. Literal cut and paste. Don’t overthink it.

    Oh, you mean the lack of the word “to”. Yeah, I’d prefer it with a “to”. Don’t know if it was an honest error or a deliberate meta-cut and paste joke (which is more confusing than funny).

  7. OR, now hear me out, OR it is a reference to Star Trek. “The red shirts” always died in the show (original series) but blue shirts didn’t (or rarely). So, if you had a blue shirt you don’t need to run. If you have a red shirt, if you run fast enough, it is effectively blue.

    Now, I will say, my first thought was, in fact, the doppler shift and I still think that is likely, but maybe this makes some sense?

  8. Targuman: I like that! While it’s almost certainly not the intent of the makers of the shirt, it makes a lot of sense, and works amazingly well.

  9. You can get a t-shirt with a picture of KISS on it, and the words “Led Zeppelin” across the bottom.

    It’s deliberate & I think it’s hilarious and I hope Santa brings me one.

  10. Speaking of the “mismatch” effect as in Oaf’s KISS / Zep great example, I at first view of the red shirt saying it was blue thought it was meant to illustrate the old well-established cognitive science Stroop Effect.

  11. Targuman, I thought of Star Trek First an only reading the lines to I get it was Doppler.

    An annoyance of mine is Redshirts didn’t die with any more frequency than any other color. Someone compiled a video of all the redshirt deaths and ranked them by stupidity. But there were only about 30 or so of them and there were 90 deaths or so. Which means the remaining 2/3 of the deaths most have worn blue or yellow shirts..

  12. https://digg.com/2019/star-trek-shirt-color-death-data-viz

    Redshirts die more others (red 32%) but by a thin margin (yellow 29% blue 21%; other 17%).

    And per capita redshirts have the highest survival rate (because there are more redshirts then any other color; Yellow was for those in command positions and blue for science officers. So although more total number of redshirts die than any other color there were more of them to begin with).

  13. There is no cost to developing a potential T-shirt. You create an image and upload it to a print-on-demand site who sells it for you. They project your image onto images of people wearing sweatshirts and t-shirts, onto mugs, mousepads, and whatever else you want. The actual item doesn’t exist until someone buys it, at which point it is manufactured in whatever format is appropriate for the item, and attached to it.

    No red T-shirt which says “This T-shirt is blue if you run fast enough” exists until someone buys it.

    And if ONE person wishes to own a blue T-shirt which says “this T-shirt is blue; you don’t need to run fast”, then they can create such an image, upload it to the site, and buy one. And if that person makes it when they’re drunk and can’t type, then it will be uploaded with typoes and bad grammar.

    I have a size XXXXXL T-shirt that says “MY SHIRT IS THE BIGGEST.” To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only one in existence. It probably still exists online, with the ability for someone to buy another one. Because there is no cost to it.

  14. You know you’re getting old when T-shirts make no sense. I’ve read that Millennial humor is a bit different from previous generations.

    Oh, and I think the cat is crawling through blinds.

  15. ianosmond: Oh, that makes sense. I had pictured someone designing the shirt, printing it out, having a model wear it, and getting some pictures of it, all without anyone noticing the typo. But that makes sense, if all the steps are done on a computer by a single individual, then the typo is more reasonable.

  16. woozy: That website looks like it lumps together all Star Trek series, but I always thought of the redshirt trope as referring to TOS.

    Yeah,, I realized that after I posted. Maybe red shirts did die more. But it’s…. okay, that sort of humor really irks me.

    Red the redshirts novel and it was amusing. But it had one huge logical flaw. But that could be explained by the final meta-twist I suppose…..

  17. I think Carl is probably right. The awkward “don’t need run” error echoes similar phrasing I’ve seen many times in better ads for direct imports from China. I say “better ads,” because the worse ads for direct imports use machine translations to something almost but not quite entirely unlike English.

  18. So glad I only buy tee shirts with nothing printed on them – I would hate to have to double check the grammar on the shirt.

  19. One of my quarantine projects was replacing the stereo in the Venerable Bronco. I bought the new one from Rockville, and it included a free T-shirt with the company name on it. I wear that around the house.

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