“Even a Novelist Has to Wear Something”: Haruki Murakami Puts His Massive T-shirt Collection on Display
Haruki Murakami thinks he owns about 200 T-shirts. The prizewinning author of the novels Killing Commendatore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and more than 50 other books, didn’t intend to collect the T’s—they just piled up. “When I run across an interesting one, I’ll buy it on a whim,” he says. His new book, Murakami T: The T-shirts I Love, out from Knopf, compiles his favorites and the stories behind them in the candid, unassuming tone that characterizes his nonfiction. “Maybe readers will make some unexpected discovery—like, I see, novelists shop in thrift stores too and buy used T-shirts for $3,” he says. “Even a novelist has to wear something, right?” Below, he talks style, substance, and American beer.
Vanity Fair: Can you remember the first T-shirt that made you think, I have to buy this? What was it like?
Haruki Murakami: The one I remember most is the Champion Plug T shirt. I bought it when I was about 18. I really liked it and wore it a lot. Recently, I watched the film Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, and Brad Pitt was wearing the same exact T-shirt. That brought back some good memories.
What’s the most memorable interaction you’ve had with a stranger based on a T-shirt you were wearing?
I can’t remember any interactions that were particularly memorable, but when I was living in the U.S. and was walking down the street, people would often ask me, “Where did you buy that shirt?” That wouldn’t happen in Tokyo. I suppose that’s a difference between the two cultures. When I tell them things like, “Oh, this one? I bought it in Shibuya in Tokyo,” they’re kind of disappointed.
When you walk into a thrift store, what’s your strategy for T-shirt hunting? How do you go about it?
It’s important to make sure you take your time to choose. If you’re worried about time and in a rush, you’ll miss some real finds. Having a lot of free time, more than you know what to do with—that’s the key, above all, if you want to have a collection.
Why do you think you find it difficult to get rid of things in general and T-shirts in particular?
I do collect T-shirts and LPs, but not books. I get rid of most books after I’ve read them. I’m a novelist, so why are T-shirts more important to me than books? That’s a hard question for me to answer.
How does writing autobiographically compare to writing fiction?
I find it difficult to write fiction unless I tell myself, Okay, time to write some fiction! When I’m not in the mood to write fiction, I end up at my desk just simply writing. Like a musician practicing his instrument. Since writing is something I simply enjoy doing. That’s how this T-shirt book came about. I enjoyed writing it, and I hope people find it equally enjoyable to read.
Do you have any modern-day style icons?
I’m the type of person who, no matter what, goes his own way. I suppose you could call it self-centered. I have a very clear idea of what I like and what I don’t. This goes for the books I read, the music I listen to, and the clothes I wear. So I’ve never been very conscious of style icons.
What is it like to share this aspect of your life with the masses?
Maybe they’ll make some unexpected discovery, which might be good—like, I see, so novelists shop in thrift stores too and buy used T-shirts for $3. Even a novelist has to wear something, right? As I rummage through the T-shirts, no one has ever asked, “Are you Mr. Murakami?” At least not yet.
One of the T-shirts in your book has a Lone Star beer logo on it, but you say you’ve never drunk a Lone Star. As a Texan, I can tell you that it’s delicious; it’s a bit like Coors Light but slightly heavier.
If I make it to Texas, I’ll be sure to have some. I really enjoy how, in the U.S., there are so many regional differences when it comes to the beer people drink. Right now in Japan, the Japanese brew I’m enjoying the most is Asahi Dry Black.
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Published at Wed, 27 Oct 2021 14:00:00 +0000
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