Hundreds of Apple fanboys and fangirls snaked through the corridors of Grand Central Terminal on Friday morning, and while some eagerly awaited the ribbon-cutting of the world's largest Apple, at least a few dozen just wanted a new T-shirt. In The Wall Street Journal's words, "It is a ritual that is part of a cult around Apple's T-shirts." In our eyes, it's just more evidence that the Apple's way-too-loyal followers tend to be a little bit insane.
The idea of an Apple T-shirt cult is totally bonkers. WSJ Live covered the opening, and as reporter-on-the-scene Kelsey Hubbard described the crowd, one achor astutely observed, "It sounds like you're describing a religion." Another wondered, "Are these people healthy, passionate people or are they losers?" The Journal's front-page story by Jessica Vascellaro and Ian Sherr provides some insight from "Apple shirt connoisseur" Christopher Harrington, a commuter from Greenwich, Connecticut who showed up early to nab one of the Grand Central editions:
But the most-prized items in [Harrington's] wardrobe are a couple of Apple tees he's not really supposed to have: shirts that Apple's retail employees have worn as uniforms. Apple requires store workers to wear the T-shirts that promote new products and the seasons. But the Cupertino, Calif., company, which keeps notoriously tight control over what employees know and say about it, forbids employees from selling, giving away or donating the retail employee T-shirts to charity, say current and former employees.
Mr. Harrington says Apple-employee friends sneaked him the contraband shirts with one condition: "I am under strict orders not to wear them," he says, adding that doing so would make him feel like an impostor similar to "dressing up as a police officer."
The Apple employees are right to be paranoid. Last week, Business Insider published some details of Apple's policy for employee confidentiality which, among many ultra strict rules, specifically prohibits not only leaking confidential information about Apple but also posting any "photographs, articles, or commentary about Apple products, services, or initiatives" online. Doing so will get them fired.
Nevertheless, eBay is teeming with purportedly rare Apple t-shirts, many of which claim to be from the blessed employee-only collection. The often American Apparel-branded items tend to sell for a reasonable price, anywhere from $15 to $30. A very small sampling of items currently for sale:
Of course, the really rare shirts are the ones that Apple habitually gives out at store openings. The Grand Central edition pictured at the top of this post uses the same vintage-style train station announcement board font that advertised the store's opening for the past couple of weeks. According to The Journal, most of the store opening shirts tend to be pretty simple, black with white lettering, although "Apple sometimes marks major new openings with a special design or color, such as red for this year's Hong Kong debut." One really unique one is a black, long-sleeved shirt á la Steve Jobs that features a grey rubber tab bearing the Apple logo on the sleeve. Fanboys call this one the "Star Trek shirt."
The lust for rare Apple items actually gets nerdier. On the same day that the Grand Central store opened its doors, the Mac-centric blog Apple Insider announced the latest exciting eBay auction for rare Apple hardware. For just $100, you can be the proud owner of this 1978 Apple II ROM prototype, complete with stickers that may or may not have been placed on the microchips by Steve Jobs himself.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.