Cut the Sleeves Off Your T-Shirts to Stay Cool

Image: BACKGRID

We’re in the dying days of summer in New York City. The air is oppressive and thick. The streets radiate heat and the smell of garbage. The mayor, somehow, is running for president. There is no relief except for bodegas selling Snickers Ice Cream Bars, public pools and beaches, and dark movie theaters. It’s an absolutely perfect time of year.

It’s also prime season to wear t-shirts with the sleeves cut off, which creates nice airflow, largely avoids pit stains, and guarantees that you will look cool no matter what. So as we say goodbye to August and prepare ourselves for the fading heat of September, why not try it?

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I first started cutting the sleeves off my t-shirts as a teenager because it was a punk thing to do, and also because, at the age of 16, I was still the size of a medium healthy 10-year-old. Cutting up my t-shirts meant that I could buy any shirt I wanted and wear it after slicing up the sides and sewing it back together or just taking off the sleeves and cutting the bottom to crop it.

I have never looked back. Cut off t-shirts go well with skirts and whatever you call the wide leg kind of flowing pants people wear now. They look cool with jeans. They go great with no pants when you’re walking around your apartment in total freedom. They make up half of my look, which I’d describe as rotating between divorced smoker mom circa 1973 and high school bully circa 1979.

Here are some of the t-shirts I own, maybe 20 percent of my total sleeveless t-shirt collection. There are a lot of ways to come into a free t-shirt and, while I will immediately throw out the Christmas card you sent me with a picture of your baby on it, I will never throw out a t-shirt:

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I did not cut the sleeves off this t-shirt, but I did crop it so it still counts for the purposes of this blog
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Now people ask me: can you show me how to cut the sleeves off my t-shirts? Every day they ask me. I get letters in the mail. Endless emails. “Can you? Can you?” Well, now I will. There are probably more precise ways to do this, but maybe go talk to someone else about that.

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Step 1: Find Yourself a T-Shirt

Here is a fresh boy that I recently acquired from my friends. It’s an album recorded especially for plants, but my plants are all still dying somehow:

Step 2: Turn Your T-Shirt Inside Out and Lay It Flat on the Ground

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Step 3: Kneel on the T-Shirt to Hold It in Place, Then Pull the Sleeve Taut

I can’t take a picture of this part because I only have two hands. But basically you use your knee help keep the t-shirt in place, then pull the sleeve taught with your non-dominant hand. This makes cutting easier, even with very dull scissors, which are the kind of scissors I have.

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Step 4: Cut Along the Seam

I generally cut on the outside of the seam, but this is a personal preference. You could cut the seam off while still using it as a guide. Sometimes I cut it off and it’s also fine. More of a halter vibe. You can also cut in a kind of messy way and it will look fine after a few washes when the sleeves roll in a little. Who cares.

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Step 5: Repeat on Other Side

You gotta do it twice, man.

Step 6: Wear Your T-Shirt, Look Cool

And that’s it! Now you have a sleeveless t-shirt. You can wear them for more and more of the year as the planet gradually warms and, at some time in the near future, the shirt will keep you comfortable when you’re desperately running away from the people in the armored SUV trying to steal your water reserves.

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Good luck out there!

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