In UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, the thick quiet makes you nervous to drop a pen. But the history department’s most recent archival initiative might be more appealing to the T-shirt-clad students swarming campus than to traditional historians. The UNC T-Shirt Archive (www.unctshirtarchive.tumblr.com) hosts an ever-growing digital photo album of importantand not so importantmoments in Carolina student history.
The oldest T-shirt currently in the archive honors Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice, a two-time All-American who helped build the reputation of UNC football and is now immortalized in a statue near Kenan Memorial Stadium. According to Roger Nelsen, who contributed the shirt, his mother-in-law got it signed in the late-1940s at a department store in Asheville.
2. SOULJA ROY
Other T’s document more fleeting moments in pop culture. The mid-2000s phenomenon that was Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” injected itself into everything, from viral YouTube videos and street dances to, yes, UNC basketball. Roy Williams’s sunglasses overlaid with the goofily written “Soulja Roy” is the focal point of this 2008 T-shirt, worn proudly by Tar Heels supporting a team that would go on to win the 2009 NCAA National Championship.
3. PASS THE BUTTER
Another 2008 T-shirt commemorates not only the glory days of Kendall Marshall’s buttery basketball skills, but also the student-run streetwear brand Thrill City. Originally run by Ryan Cocca, the brand was known for witty, unusual designs. Unfortunately, it closed in 2015, when the last of its founders graduated.
4. DORM PRIDE
Friendly dorm rivalries are a key facet of student life at UNC, especially among freshmen. While Hinton James, or “HoJo,” is the largest freshmen dorm, each has a sense of pride. “It was always fun to see someone wearing the same dorm community shirt on campus because it made for an easy icebreaker,” remembers contributor Diana Roycroft. “I remember some communities were envious of some of the shirts, so they became a hot commodity.”
5. WE GON’ BE ALRIGHT
The Black Student Movement at UNC was founded in 1957, six years after the first black student enrolled at the university. The goal was to battle issues of recruiting, admissions, and integration on campus. The movement is still needed today, and this Black Student Movement T-shirt boosts a resonant message with a culturally relevant reference. The back design proudly boasts Kendrick Lamar’s brutally hopeful lyric “We gon’ be alright,” from “Alright,” a song from last year’s To Pimp a Butterfly.