Postmodernism on a T-Shirt


“Signs are not empirical objects. Empirical objects become signs (or they are looked at as signs) only from the point of view of a philosophical decision.” – Umberto Eco

Now we can wear philosophy. Uztzu, an Italian clothing label quickly rising to design stardom in Europe, has just launched its Q-Shirt, and, before you read anything else on this website, you’re going to want to run to the store and pick up a pair before they sell out. What’s so special about it? Well, for starters, it’s the world’s first four in one shirt, which means that you can wear it backward, forwards, or either side inside-out, and rep a different style every single time. Then, there’s the fact that the tees themselves are crafted using 100% recycled materials, so just by buying one you’ll be helping to push the fashion world to the direction of environmental sustainability.

Those are the objective, empirical design features which make the Q-Shirt so desirable; but, honestly, they only begin to scratch the surface of what makes it so cool. The Q-Shirt synthesizes minimalism and maximalism, fearlessly fusing strikingly different aesthetics on the same canvas. By envisioning that canvas in three spatial dimensions whose relationships with one another can change throughout time, Uztzu has empowered even the wearers of its clothes to be part of the process of creation. And, the way they have filled that three dimension space with the same beautiful confidence of a Roman statue guarantees that, at no point in that process of creation, will you throw together something as ugly or haphazard as a real mistake.

In that sense, the shirts are a truly postmodern project. The visual panoply and the equal consideration paid to both the aesthetic and mechanical effects of the design reflect the fragmentary, multipolar reality of modern urban life. It takes the lineage of Italian luxury and, by turning into a symbol which turns into a quotation, draws that lineage into the realm of the affordable, the accessible, the sexy.

 With no shirt is that more evident than the graphic, red-on-white homage to the famous Laocoön statue. It’s a world unto itself. It stands on its own, and you’ll be able to pull off a seamless style with whatever pants, shoes, or hats you pair it with. As far as the look goes, even the subtlest twist of marble is preserved in the shirt’s arcs and contours, and a flawless facade does its best to convince your admirers that they’re looking at the real thing. Fittingly enough, we’re not sure even to this day whether the statue was sculpted in Greece or has come to us as a Roman copy, only that it was preserved by luck in a near pristine condition and found a home in the Vatican museums only by virtue of its beauty. The statue itself is, of course, a quotation, a push to translate the visceral poignancy of Vergil’s poetry to the illiterate masses.

That poignancy strikes a balance between tears for the world, which dies second by second, and joy, which realizes the essential, absolute, unchanging truths. The poignancy has spread by that mystical power of metempsychosis, transporting and translating itself again and again throughout history, from Homer to Vergil to Dante to Joyce to DFW, to now.

Well, OK. Maybe the Q-Shirt isn’t quite as important as the seminal works of the Western canon. But it is really really ridiculously good looking. And, as this season’s hottest postmodern fashion statement, that’s all it has to be.