Down Memory Lane in a Corporate T-Shirt

One of the perks of working in high tech during the boom years was that you could wear jeans and polo shirts to the office every day, and you didn’t even have to pay for the shirts – someone was always giving you clothing.

If you represented your company at a show or conference, they wanted you “in uniform,” so they gave you a new shirt. My first was the infamous Adaptec polo shirt, purple with a turquoise placket and navy collar. I still have it, but don’t wear it much, because, like most of the shirts Adaptec gave me, it was too big.

Another polo shirt I received was embroidered to commemorate a project I hadn’t known I was participating in, something to do with an upgrade of the Adaptec network. As far as I was concerned, I had been helping out my buddies in IT by playing around with cool new stuff, so I was surprised to get a shirt about it. They swore they had even asked me what size I wanted (if they had, I would have asked for a small).

I was informally part of Adaptec’s web team, so I got a fleece jacket to commemorate the relaunch of the company website, in fall 1997 according to the embroidery. The jackets were commissioned prematurely, however – as I recall, the site didn’t actually go live til about six months later.

Let’s see, what else is in the closet? Another fleece, this one from a conference we hosted for our European distributors in Marbella. Nicer quality of fleece, but no pockets! A long-sleeved polo shirt from something else, too big as usual, and in a horrid shade of green.

Various baseball caps, pity I don’t wear them very often. My favorite is one that an IT buddy was given by UUNet, which he graciously passed on to me – if I’m going to wear a baseball cap at all, I want it to be as geeky as possible. The best-looking cap I have is naturally from ATG – Art Technology Group, a company that prided itself on its fine design sense (one of my Woodstock classmates was its CEO at the time).

I have t-shirts from various companies, but I never wore them in the office, nor much on the street in Italy. On one of our Caribbean vacations, a company logo t-shirt I happened to be wearing actually accomplished its advertising purpose. We went horseback riding on the beach. After an hour riding behind me and looking at my Toast + Jam t-shirt, a guy in the group with us asked me what it was about. I explained, and he said “Oh, I could use that.” Turns out he was a musician, and liked the idea of being able to create his own CDs of his work.

I get more wear out of the long-sleeved Ts, from Hewlett-Packard (wore that one out, in fact) and Roxio, and a nice black turtleneck from Roxio Germany commemorating WinOnCD 6 (for which I wrote the manual). Thanks to friends, I still enjoy some of my old industry perks: I recently received three black turtlenecks embroidered with “Roxio – a division of Sonic Solutions”. Come to think of it, my collection of shirts spans most of the history of the CD recording software industry.

My all-time favorite remains the denim shirt pictured here. It’s a little big, but just comfortably so, enough to wear over a long-sleeve knit shirt in spring. The embroidery was designed by a tattoo artist: a burning heart with “Born 2 Burn” inscribed on a banner wrapped around it. A couple of years later, after several changes of the guard at Adaptec/Roxio, I was wearing it the day I met our new CEO, Chris Gorog. He commented on the shirt, and I passed along the observation that one of the engineers had made about the tattoo design: “If you turn it upside down, it looks like a flaming asshole.” Which probably sealed my doom with Mr. Gorog. Oh, well. Perhaps he and I were never destined to get along in the first place.

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