Starbucks doesn’t want you to cry over spilt coffee—it wants you to pay US$85 for it. This week, as part of a series to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the company released a white T-shirt with a coffee stain design on it and the company logo mixed in. The high price tag is a result of a partnership with department store Nordstrom and designer Alexander Wang (the top New York Fashion Week designer). It’s been suggested by some that you could just spill coffee on yourself and keep the change, but those people don’t understand T-shirts as high art.
Thanks to American Apparel and the commercialization of “fashionable basics,” the T-shirt is sexy, and no longer something worn on casual Fridays to appear anti-fashion. People pay $50,000 for that basic article of clothing, and according to Wired, the industry boasts big business: US$40 billion in 2008. The market is competitive, and as a result retailers are taking risks to get attention. There have been some successes, like CNN’s headline T-shirts, and some duds. (Most recently, I wrote about JC Penney pulling its T-shirt featuring the message “I’m too pretty to do homework…” after a petition was started against it).
Gone are the days when companies can slap a logo on an over-sized shirt dorky dads will wear to barbecues. Enter Starbucks. The company has managed to elevate the status of average coffee by wrapping it in sexy Italian terminology (Venti, Grande). Who’s to say it can’t do the same for T-shirts and coffee stains?