(Google) History in the Bottom Drawer

Like many Xooglers (yeah, that’s what we ex-Google employees call ourselves), I’ve got half a closet full of old t-shirts I never wear anymore. Old Google t-shirts, many of them in questionable or unwearable condition. Sure, I could throw them all out or give them to Goodwill and have space for the clothes that I actually do wear, but I can’t bear to part with them. Why? Because behind each and every Google t-shirt, there’s a Google story.


You see, back in the day, back in the Valley, t-shirts commemorated things. Important things. When your team finally launched that damned project, you printed up a t-shirt. When pretty much anything important happened, you commemorated it with a t-shirt so that those who were involved could wear it like a badge of honor. T-shirts were a mark of belonging – an embraced emblem of tech culture. When we launched Google Labs, we did it entirely off of volunteer labor enlisted with a simple promise: “Everyone who helps out will get an (as-yet-undesigned) t-shirt!”

Back of the eventual Google Labs shirt. Unanticipated side effect was that if you tucked it in, it looked vaguely like green bubbles were funneling out from the back of your pants…

Sure, many of those projects flamed out spectacularly. Many more of them sputtered, fizzled and died so quiet a death that no one even noticed they were gone. But the t-shirts remain, and the stories behind them are the fabric (see what I did there?) of what makes Google and Silicon Valley unique.

Charlie Ayers, our first chef, did not retire quietly

I envision this site becoming an archive of photos of Google t-shirts and the (non-confidential, please) stories behind them. If you’re an ex-Googler and have a t-shirt with a story to tell, please contact me to be added to the contributor list. Okay? Let’s do this, if only for the sake of future generations.

One of my personal favorites: Engineering Team Bowling Offsite, 2003

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