My first job out of college was at a small independent publisher. Not the fun, fiction kind but one that churned out how-to computer guides that were drier than any waiting room material. I was one of many admin assistants and though I considered myself part of the creative class, I was stuck in sales rather than the marketing group whose cubicles were decorated with Velcro basketball hoops and Far Side comic-a-day calendars. It was a business casual existence and I struggled to make my low-rise capris and platform Mary Janes ('90s club chic) transition into career separates.
We looked forward to Fridays the most-- not only was it free bagels but casual dress, which meant jeans and maybe a knit top instead of a button-down. But for one woman in the assistant pool, it was her Norma Rae moment. That day she donned stonewashed jeans, black cardigan and an oversized t-shirt which read, in Frankie Say Relax-style stacked and block lettering: DON’T ASK ME 4 $HIT.
Not only did it perfectly capture how we all felt once the work week had ended, but it also spoke to the tedium of our 9-5 routine which was spent making the lives of our respective male bosses that much easier, positioning them for success while we remained stagnant. My job there was a temporary stop on the way to figuring out my career path, but I was acutely aware of my privilege: I was young, educated and didn’t yet have anyone dependent on me. Whereas so many others, like my grandfather who spent his life working the factory line, it was the foreseeable future of clocking in and out and waiting for that Friday bell to ring.
It’s been twenty years but I still look for that tshirt on eBay and I may just end up printing one myself. In the meantime, I appreciate how language can be literally incorporated into fashion to convey some act of resistance (side note: she was told to button her cardigan and cover the shirt).
I found this "Sticks and Stones" t-shirt when hunting for vintage and selfishly, decided not to sell it. Instead, I wear it on those days when I need to channel the spirit of that champion of casual Friday.