From shoes to skirts to shirts, Feline Fridays are the highlight of the week for students like Andrew Franks, who started the tradition of wearing cat-themed clothing on the last day of the school week. For Franks, this is just another excuse to wear some of his favorite t-shirts that show off his quirky personality.
Franks, a senior Bible major at Huntington University, has collected an odd array of t-shirts over the years, all of which tell a little bit about his personality. From the multicolored unicorn cat shirt to shirts covered in various puns and gaming references, Franks uses his body to showcase who he is to the world.
“It gives you a good snapshot into somebody’s personality,” Franks said. “We wear specifically nerdy clothes because we are nerds and geeks. I wear video game clothes because I am a gamer. Cat clothes we wear because we like cats.”
Thorn has also taken part in Feline Fridays and loves the sense of community it brings.
“It makes you a part of a group,” Thorn said. “The people who are a part of Feline Friday are identifiable on Fridays because they are wearing cat shirts. People that are fans of sports teams right now are identifiable by the shirts they wear.”
For Thorn, one of her favorite parts about wearing these shirts is the conversation that happens with strangers. One of her favorite conversation-starter shirts is one that depicts various office supplies such as glue, scissors and markers and combines them with their corresponding computer commands.
For some around campus, seeing shirts like the ones Thorn and Franks wear becomes a highlight to their day. Junior Danielle Haley enjoys walking around campus and looking for the next interesting shirt to read.
“It just brightens my day,” Haley said. “They are just fun to look at – usually pretty funny!”
One of her favorites was a shirt Thorn recently got that has “The Fellowship of the Ring” depicted as cats.
Together, Thorn and Franks have nearly 50 printed t-shirts that they wear regularly, many of which they have gotten each other as gifts. But not all of the gifted t-shirts are loved equally by both parties.
Thorn gave Franks a black and brown t-shirt for his birthday that reads, “Beards: they grow on you.” She is less than thrilled about the color choice.
“It’s black and brown, so she hates it, which makes it even better,” Franks said. “And now it has a story behind it because when people ask, ‘Andrew, why are you wearing black and brown?’ Because to me, they look good and it makes Stormie cry!”
“It makes the rest of the world cry,” adds Thorn.
Deb Farmer, a community representative of AG Apparel in Fort Wayne, Ind., notes that the clothing a person chooses to wear can actually have an emotional effect on the people walking by.
“You can actually make people feel a certain way just by the message you display,” Farmer said in an email interview. “If you wear something funny – you will often times generate a smile or laugh from the person viewing it. If you are wearing a benefit shirt, this will invite feelings of empathy, grief, etc. Most people under estimate the importance of the message on the clothing.”
For junior Nicole Manges, t-shirts often direct her and point her back to the special times in her life when she got those shirts. Many of the shirts she owns from middle school and high school are now a part of a large t-shirt quilt, which she made herself in her first year at HU.
Many of these shirts have funny memories attached to them, such as the “Puff Girl” shirt, featured in the upper left of her blanket.
“The ‘Puff girl’ shirt my friend made for me when we were in junior high,” Manges said. “It was one of those long-running jokes about a kitten named Puff and we just thought it was funny because Puff the Magic Dragon was a thing and the cat was nothing like him. And we just thought it was hilarious, so she just made that shirt for my birthday.”
Another one of her more humorous shirts is one that she got after having gone to Saint Louis, Mo., with her family.
“We went to Saint Louis as a family and we visited the Saint Louis airport, which is where my brother and sister got their shirts,” Manges remembered. “But I decided to wait and consider my other options. But we ended up leaving the city before I got my t-shirt and I was very bummed, so we ordered one off the internet and it was a little disappointing, but so funny. It has always looked that faded. It’s like a negative or something, and it’s got, like, words that are faded into it or something. It is interestingly bad!”
But not every t-shirt worn by people in Huntington is enjoyed by those walking by.
Sophomore Amy Spencer remembers one shirt she saw a man wearing earlier this semester at Walmart that had a partucularly crude message on the front.
“Yea, I remember I saw one guy walk by with this yellow shirt and it had a duck on it,” Spencer said, “and I was like, ‘Oh, a duck!’ so I looked closer. But then I read it and, yea. It was not nice. It said, like, ‘Duck My Sick,’ and, obviously, I read it wrong the first time! So, yea. Jesus would not approve of that one!”
But even with the occasional crude message plastered on the front and paraded around town, t-shirts have still managed to become a cultural favorite and a staple for many Americans today. And it is not hard to see why.
“It is a way to show who you are outside of yourself,” Thorn said. “You can wear certain things to make you feel a certain way, but you can also wear things that can help you tell other people things about you.”