If you have been playing taiko for any length of time, chances are that you have collected at least a few taiko t-shirts! I cleaned my closet the other day to find that I have exactly 33 taiko t-shirts…enough to fill two drawers. I counted my collection and determined that black was the predominant color! 15 of them! Does that mean that I like black? I do. That I prefer black? Probably? Or that most taiko groups make/sell black t-shirts? Quite likely. My second highest number is blue (light and dark). Of those, I own seven. I have five red ones and three green, and I also have one each of white, brown and beige.
What constitutes a great taiko t-shirt? Well for everyone that is different. Color and design no doubt play a part. Some shirts have loud splashy designs, some don’t. Some designs are contemporary, and some more traditional. Some might even use cartoonish graphics or fonts. Many use Japanese writing/calligraphy. Some taiko groups have a signature color, and some don’t. My preferences, however, are driven less by design and more by the weight and quality of the fabric. I favor cotton or a cotton blend that is lighter in weight and a bit stretchy.
One thing you can do with taiko t-shirts is customize them. You can tear or cut a t-shirt to give it a completely different look. Here’s an example of what an Odaiko New England member did to modify a t-shirt. Another friend of mine completely retooled a taiko t-shirt by cutting its sleeves and neck, taking it in on the sides to make it more form fitting and by adding a crocheted edge on the neck and sleeves. Both approaches are great ways to dress up and/or personalize your tee!
You can also take the lazy-man approach and just cut the neck and/or sleeves a bit, which is about all that I ever do. This makes them a little cooler to wear…not in a fashion sense but in a temperature sense! If you are looking for some interesting ways to cut or modify a t-shirt, there are many great instructional videos online. Just search by entering key words like “cut t shirt designs” and many lots of videos will crop up.
Where can you wear your taiko t-shirt? Well, to taiko practice obviously. Taiko performances. Or pretty much anywhere. I traveled with someone recently who had several different colors of her taiko group’s t-shirt, so she wore a different one each day of the trip! Given that I have 33 taiko t-shirts, I could probably go an entire month of without ever having to launder one!
I wondered if my collection of tees were similar in number to what other taiko players and pros had, so I posed the question to the Facebook taiko community. Responses varied. Some had a few, and some had close to the number that I had. One had about 80 shirts. The winner by far though was a one well-known North American taiko professional who said that she had “two 80-gallon bins, probably another three 24-gallon bins, three drawers and others scattered here and there.”
And what can you do with worn-out taiko t-shirts or ones that have become too small? Recycle them in creative ways! You could make a quilt. It will be pretty when done but can be a little difficult to sew since t-shirt material is stretchy. Apparently this is something several taiko players have done. Or you can make something like a drawstring bag (www.instructables.com) which could be used for toting taiko accessories! And of course, you can also just pass them on to someone else!