PORTLAND, OR—While standing in front of his open closet, Ken Ciszek announced Tuesday that he is instituting a T-shirt purchasing freeze until further notice.
"Although I love and have always loved T-shirts, the time has come to halt their acquisition," Ciszek said. "This includes T-shirts that feature bands and movies I like, locations I have visited, sports teams I support, causes I endorse, and phrases I find funny."
Ciszek said he has been buying T-shirts since high school.
"When I was a kid, I'd pick one up at every concert," Ciszek said. "Then, in college, I started buying them from thrift stores or getting them at political rallies."
The 29-year-old restaurant manager instituted his T-shirt-buying freeze when he realized he had so many T-shirts that he had lost track of his holdings.
"I found a great Cheap Trick Dream Police tour shirt at a garage sale," Ciszek said. "I couldn't believe my luck, but then I got home and realized I had one exactly like it buried under my other band T-shirts. Until I can figure out what to do with these things, I'm cutting myself off. It'll be hard, but I gotta do it."
Ciszek keeps the T-shirts that he wears most frequently hung in his closet. His second-tier T-shirts are kept folded on top of his dresser, which is filled with third- and fourth-tier T-shirts. Ciszek also has a box of T-shirts under his bed.
"There are ones I haven't worn in, like, four years," Ciszek said. "Some of them are riddled with holes. Some are so old that they're practically translucent. I have a 'Don't Mess With Texas' T-shirt that's so faded, the logo isn't even there anymore. It's just an outline of the state."
Added Ciszek: "But I love it, and I just can't bring myself to throw it out, until it falls completely apart or is ripped from my back."
Ciszek first recognized his problem in August, when his washing machine broke and he was able to go six weeks without needing to wash a T-shirt. Though he could easily donate his less-favored shirts to charity or throw them away, Ciszek said he is at a loss.
"Which ones can I get rid of?" said Ciszek, standing over a pile of shirts on his bed. "I mean, they all have sentimental value. This Old Milwaukee shirt I got to cheer myself up after I broke my leg in 2000. Here's one from a Fun Run I got roped into doing once. This one has a fish on it—I got it at a gas station. This one says 'We're All Earnest.' I have no idea what that even means, but the old telephone on it looks really cool."
Ciszek received some of the T-shirts in his wardrobe as gifts.
"This one is from the camp that my friend Jake worked at over the summer," Ciszek said. "My sister bought me this one at Disney World—I don't even like it, really, but I keep it because it was nice that she thought of me. Oh, wow. There's still a price tag on it."
At last count, Ciszek said he owned 132 T-shirts. The glut has gotten so out of control that he has been forced to turn down free T-shirts.
"I was at a sneak preview for Kill Bill, and they were tossing free stuff into the audience," Ciszek said. "Just my luck, instead of a hat or a poster or something, a T-shirt landed right on my head. I gave it to the guy sitting next to me. That's something I never would have done a year ago."
Ciszek's girlfriend, Faye Bullington, called the T-shirt purchase freeze "a step in the right direction."
"If only I could just get him to start wearing shirts with buttons," Bullington said. "He's almost 30, but he still dresses like a 16-year-old. Is it really necessary for him to alert everyone on the street that he's been to San Diego?"