T here are clothes that suggest a culture, or a region of the country. There are outfits which denote a certain era or outlook. Then there are the sartorial choices that say “New Haven.” Literally.
You’ll always have a lot more luck finding apparel emblazoned with “Yale” than you will “New Haven.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, partly due to that lack of ubiquity, there’s joy in finding items marked with the name of the city.
And once you’ve started looking, it’s not hard to fill a wardrobe with items emblazoned with the words “New Haven.” As long as your clothing of choice is T-shirts and sweatshirts, that is.
The first stop in searching for New Haven wear is at the INFO New Haven booth at the corner of Chapel and College streets. There’s usually a selection of T-shirts bearing the city’s name.
A block and a half away from INFO New Haven, the Institute Library, founded in 1826, offers a T-shirt based on a bookplate touting one of the Institute’s venerable predecessors, The Mechanic Library Society. The image, dating from the late 18th century, shows two men whacking away with hatchets at a tree stump and bears the motto “Improve the Moment.”
Some shirts for specific stores and restaurants scream “New Haven” as loudly as if the city’s name were the only thing on them. The iconic Middle Eastern restaurant Mamoun’s created its distinctive T-shirt (with a caricature of Mamoun himself) a generation ago, and ranks with shirts from Cutler’s and Claire’s and Toad’s Place as essential wardrobe items for any self-respecting townie. When Miya’s sushi restaurant, on Howe near Chapel, developed its own T-shirt design a few years ago, it silkscreened a bunch right over Mamoun’s shirts, creating a pattern that promoted both places, for a special community feel.
Another big reason to miss Cutler’s, the CD/records/tapes/gifts shop which defined the Broadway New Haven shopping experience for decades and closed earlier this year, is the unique assortment of New Haven shirts it stocked: a shirt simply bearing the zip code 06510; shirts silkscreened with images of the New Haven Coliseum imploding.
The Yale Barnes & Noble Bookstore sometimes has a New Haven shirt or two in stock amid all the Yalewear on the second floor of its 77 Broadway location. Campus Customs (just two doors down from the Yale Bookstore, at 57 Broadway) has offered an array of designs over the years with pleasant, tranquil images of old New Haven, like a boat on the harbor, or a historical building. Go to the discount rack at the back of the store right now and you’ll find T-shirts and sweatshirts in numerous colors, bearing nothing but the clean, crisp logo “New Haven,” college lettering-style.
If you don’t want your boosterism to be limited to T-shirts (which will likely be covered up with sweaters or overcoats at this time of year anyhow), head to New Haven Museum, which has a gift shop full of New Haven-centric items, from elaborate throw blankets with the history of New Haven stitched into them to commemorative coins to snowglobes depicting the three churches on New Haven Green.
One of the iconic New Haven T-shirts of recent years is the one reading “New Haven: It’s Better Than Your Town,” which was designed and hawked by Ben Berkowitz before he became better known locally as the co-founder of SeeClickFix. A limited new edition of the shirts, in multiple colors, were available for online order only through mid-November, and likely turned up under a bunch of Christmas trees this week.
Hope you see a lot of those shirts around town these days. Sometimes, hometown pride is a state of dress.
Written and photographed by Christopher Arnott.