In high school, I was an unabashed fan of weird and silly tee-shirts. But the relative merits of having people stare at your chest all day are debatable, and after weathering about a million snarky comments from yahoos at the mall and wherever else re: shirts like the one at left (designed by my friend Will) or one of my old favorites, which simply read "I hate Florida!" and had a picture of the state of Florida with an X through it (hey, I grew up there; my views on the subject have mellowed a bit since then) -- I decided to get out of the wacky tee-shirt-wearing business. What I discovered was that even now, in this age of can't-shock-me stoicism and daily exposure to porn spam, something as simple as a tee-shirt can ignite controversy. I never got suspended from school or ejected from the mall, but plenty of people have -- and here are a few of them.

Gay? Not on school property
bs100107.jpgWhen 16-year-old Heathyre Farnham showed up at her Ithaca, New York high school wearing a shirt that read "Gay? Fine by me," she was given the option of either changing her shirt or leaving school. She chose the latter. When her mother heard about the kerfluffle, she advised her daughter to contact the media -- which she did. The New York Civil Liberties Union got involved, and the school was finally pressured into admitting that Heathyre's shirt was a form of protected expression, which earned her an apology from the school. More about it here.

You're never too old to get arrested at the mall
olddude.jpgDon Zirkel is an 80-year-old church deacon who stirred up controversy by handing out anti-war pamphlets during a low-key protest at a local mall -- while wearing this shirt. Security guards told him to turn the shirt inside-out or leave; he refused; they tried to perform a citizen's arrest; he resisted. So they forced him into a wheelchair and wheeled him out, whereupon police charged him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. (Can you really be charged for resisting arrest by a security guard?!) He and the three elderly ladies that were arrested alongside him will forever be known as "The Food Court Four." Read more on the New York Times website.

At the airport, not even a picture of a gun allowed
Transformers.jpgEven a really fake one. Brad Jayakody was nearly arrested by airport security for wearing a Transformers shirt; he tells the story in his own words: "Going out to Dusseldorf for work. Flying British Airways, leaving from terminal 5. Go through security, get pulled to the side. I'm wearing a French Connection Transformers t-shirt. Bloke starts joking with me is that Megatron. Then he explains that since Megatron is holding a gun, I'm not allowed to fly. WTF? It's a 40 foot tall cartoon robot with a gun as an arm. There is no way this shirt is offensive in any way, and what I'm going to use the shirt to pretend I have a gun? Now here's the stupid part. I was only taking carry on luggage, so my clothes were in my bag, so I said I'd get changed. So I stripped off at security and changed t-shirts, putting the "offensive" t-shirt in my bag. Now I haven't been a dick so far, I've done what they've said. No point in arguing with the drones. The supervisor comes over and is now a dick to me, telling me if I put the shirt on I'll be arrested. I then told him that I wasn't going to waste time arguing with him and he wasn't worth the effort and didn't have any power to change anything anyway. With hindsight I should have said, yeah arrest me, great publicity for you guys to arrest a bloke wearing a transformers t-shirt. Tossers."

Had trouble with a tee-shirt of your own? Tell your story in the comments!"