…All I got was this lousy t-shirt

On: December 4, 2007
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About Maarten van Sprang
Maarten has a Bachelor degree in Communication and Multimedia Design and is working for Humanique as an interaction designer. Right now he is also finishing his thesis on the New Media Master at the University of Amsterdam. He's is very interested in new media (obviously), gaming and music.


On the MofM blog we have thoroughly discussed and questioned the influence of Wikipedia and Google to check if certain topics (like the spinplant) are relevant and viable. As it turns out the general opinion is that if it’s not featured on Wikipedia or Google, it doesn’t exist (or is not significant enough). Of course we (MofM) are here to discuss that, but that’s a whole different discussion.

I wanted apply this notion of checking a external source just to see if a topic has a reason to live to the fantastic world of internet memes. All of these bizarre internet phenomena have a certain point of no-return, a point from where it takes off exponentially into the world of viral distribution. I have often questioned how and why these memes pop up, but I simply can’t put my finger on it. For one, they are too diverse and I tend to think that they are also culturally defined.

Usually the internet community picks up the most remarkable phenomena but there is no real indicator to check if the meme has reached its ‘certified internet meme top status’. Well, I think I’ve found an answer to that…T-shirts! As it turns out the most popular memes have their own T-shirts, so it’s easy to differentiate the not-so-popular meme from the T-shirt owning top-meme. To illustrate my point here are some examples of memes and their T-shirts:


2 girls 1 cup (very, VERY NSFW! If you don’t believe me just look at the reactions)

More Cowbell

All your base are belong to us


Series of tubes

Leeroy Jenkins


Of course these are just a few examples of the numerous memes with T-shirts. I just wanted to point out that having a shirt could be a reasonable indicator for the popularity of a meme. However, sites like Spreadshop make it very easy to create a shirt about anything you like, so I know it isn’t failsafe, but still it shows how much the internet community is into memes and how they want to express their ‘net-literacy’ throughout their offline lives.

5 Responses to “…All I got was this lousy t-shirt”
  • December 4, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Nice research! It is indeed questionable, due to the fact that its ‘reach’ is hard to track; are people also dragged into the meme by first seeing a t-shirt in real life before checking what the internet-meme is about? I do ‘digg’ the notion that internet (geek) culture wants to spread its literacy to the off-line world by showing (often in-crowd) net-humor. It does seem to depend on a critical-mass, in the sense that the meme is linked to- talked about – buzzed, rather than actually checked, I think/speculate.
    Where’s our t-shirt in this collection? (nice exercise in trying to create a meme…)

  • December 12, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Maybe something like this:
    Spinplant t-shirt

  • December 12, 2007 at 10:25 am

    But mommy, Wikipedia says there _is_ a spinplant.

  • December 12, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I really want that tshirt!

  • February 4, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    It would be cool to make a team effort in determining the latest ‘viral’ by slamming our guesses here?! I dont want to get into a whole definition of viral discussion but my humble guess is that this will become the new “must have on a t-shirt viral”:


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