Literary T-Shirts for Last-Minute Holiday (or Treat-Yourself) Gifts


I’m obsessed with literary T-shirts because they’re my version of band T-shirts — exactly the kind of geeky, nerdy, not-quite-hipster item that fits my personality. I won’t mention how many I own. And a Jane Eyre T-shirt was my most treasured MFA graduation present. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d honor night seven of Hanukkah and the penultimate eve before Christmas Eve by sharing a few perfect literary T-shirts to purchase for yourself or a loved one before the year ends.

You can declare your literary bona fides in 2015 exactly where they belong: emblazoned across your chest.

Literary T-shirt market kingpin Out of Print clothing is my absolute favorite. They recently launched a sci-fi line that includes lots of amazing new designs. But this chilling image from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is particularly good-looking. I love that it comes in both men’s and women’s styles so that everyone, regardless of gender expression and identity, can say “We don’t want to turn into the dreaded Republic of Gilead” by wearing a picture depicting The Republic of Gilead.

Brooklyn Poets‘ awesome and super-soft T-shirt features a picture of Walt Whitman underscored with the word “Yawp,” memorable from Leaves of Grass.

Whenever you don this Tee, you can sing, loudly, of yourself, just as Whitman would have wanted:

I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable; I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. (By wearing a pretty dope hipster T-shirt)

Novel-Tees turn all your favorite authors into baseball players’ uniforms, because they were all hitters of literary home runs, weren’t they? Also, I am pretty sure there’s a large Venn-diagram overlap of nerds who like baseball and books, so why not combine them?

My cheeky favorite of their in-stock merchandize is Lao Tzu, accompanied for some reason by the number 69.

Newcomer on the literary scene Litographs gives Out of Print a run for its money, design-wise, combining gorgeous graphics with lots of tiny text from your favorite novel — up to 40,000 words’ worth. If you’re bored on your commute, you see, you can read yourself.

I particularly enjoy this Call of the Wild T-shirt, with the swaying grasses on the hem and a wolf howling at the moon on top. So evocative!

There are hundreds upon hundreds of Harry Potter T-shirts on the web, official and not, but I’m partial for this soft-seeming, faded Hogwarts T-shirt from Target. It brings to my mind an image of middle-aged Harry Potter running along the sidelines in his old gym tee, encouraging his kids as they play Quidditch, trying his best not to be a helicopter (or heli-broomstick, as it were) parent.

This T-shirt from thugz maison features the greatest black feminist thinkers in history all together, first names only. (Just beware, before you purchase, that there’s quite a discussion around the commodification of these “goddesses” of thought and writing).