of the Lazy Literatus

Keep Calm and Gaiwan On

In 1939, the United Kingdom officially declared war against Nazi Germany. Punctually early, as was the British way. In order to keep public morale high, the Ministry of Information designed and distributed posters to strengthen British resolve in advance of wartime peril. One of which was this:

Keep Calm and Carry On

It was a very British slogan.

But because it was one of many—and millions of such posters were dealt out prior to the Blitz of 1940—the slogan fell into relative obscurity until the year 2000. It was “rediscovered” by the owners of Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland. The couple that owned the bookstore were sorting through some used books they bought at an auction, and found one of the original “Keep Calm” posters.

They subsequently had it framed and put over the cash register, where it drew quite a bit of attention. After all, it was a phrase that could apply to . . . pretty much anything. And, as I said above, it was very British.

By 2012, the couple decided to distribute other merchandise embossed with the phrase. Then the Internet got a hold of it. And . . . oh my . . .

Keep Calm Iterations

One of the more sensible permutations of the phrase emerged from the miasma in 2013, which was about when I discovered it.

Keep Calm and Drink Tea

It quickly made the rounds in the tea community. I never shared it much because it wasn’t quite specific enough to my peculiar tea drinking sensibilities. And, apparently, I wasn’t alone in this.

One day, a mother of seven children—Roseanne Muncy—received a package. Of the contents were a teapet, a fairness pitcher, and a pretty gaiwan. In one fell swoop, she told the kids to bugger off (politely) and take the dogs (plural!) for a walk. All so she could partake of a well-deserved, much-needed tea break. And that’s when she thought of it . . .

Keep Calm and Gaiwan On

That speaks to me.

For those who don’t know, Rosanne Muncy is the owner of TeaPrints—an online apparel shop specifically geared to tea drinkers. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen their wares brandished by many of my cuppa compatriots. The designs were all quite nifty.

Rosanne got in touch with me over Instagram one day (of all places), and she asked if I was willing to review one of her “tea”-shirts. I had no clue what to say because . . . well . . . I’d never reviewed a shirt before. Or any article of clothing, for that matter. But I hastily said, “Yes!”

She asked me which one I wanted to review. I emailed her back saying that the “Keep Calm and Gaiwan On” really spoke to me. She followed that up by inquiring about my color preference.

“British Blitzkrieg Red!” I said. To me, there was no other answer.

A couple of short weeks later, the shirt arrived.

Shirt and other stuff

(It arrived the same day as a special delivery from Puerto Rico, but that’s a story for another time.)

Now, I just had to figure out how to do an apparel review.

While I was certain there were men’s fashion blogs out there that I could research, I felt that was a boring way to approach it. That and I already had a well-versed frame of knowledge on another format. Women’s fashion blogs. Through my various blogging groups and other contacts, I knew of many I could mine for inspiration. So, I went with a couple of those as a primer.

I “hired” my brother to be my cameraman, grabbed my large, Yunnan grown-‘n-glazed gaiwan, and we headed out to a public park within walking distance. Luckily, there were no pedestrians nearby. I don’t think I would’ve had a good explanation for what transpired next.

First, the “bashful” pose.

Bashful Keep Calm shirt pose

Photo by Robert Norman.

As one can see, the shirt is quite . . . um . . . elastic? Perfect for those times when you—the wearer—have done something awkward or embarrassing (like forgetting to wear pants), or if you’re full-on manblushing . . . like I’m doing here. Hey, my brother asked me for bashful, and dog-gone-it, I gave him a heaping gaiwan amount of bashful!

Next, sassy!

Sassy Keep Calm shirt pose

Photo by Robert Norman.

I see a lot of poses like this. Not a manly pose at all, but darn it . . . I was feelin’ it. Or maybe it was the oolong talking, I dunno.

My brother started laughing, “Oh . . . it’s so perfect, it hurts. The camera, it hurts.”

It did kinda hurt. How do girls do this pose and not feel uncomfortable? My love handle cramped a little.

Third: Socality!

Wistful Keep Calm shirt pose

Photo by Robert Norman.

The hat and my vacant expression of bliss are supposed to invoke a feeling of . . . “I-want-to-be-one-with-nature-but-I-hate-hiking-camping- . . . -or-nature”. The pose is usually utilized by hip neo-Taoists Instagrammers that want to make it look like they’ve traveled thousands of klicks away . . . but were probably only five miles out from the urban growth boundary. I was in a public park—‘nuff said.

Sidenote: What does “socality” even mean, anyway?

According to Urban Dictionary it’s “a common hashtag used amongst the modern hipster-like community on Instagram, associated with scenic landscapes, VSCO Cam and pretentious captions.”

That’s stupid. This pose is stupid. But the shirt-‘n-hat combo is awesome. So, I used it again for . . .

Last pose (I swear): “Tea Gun for Hire”.

Suspicious gaiwan shirt pose

Photo by Robert Norman.

This wasn’t based on some sort of pose or primer I saw prior. (Wow, go alliteration!) Nope, this was all me. It says, “Yeah, I’ll take your tough tea-writing job, but what am I getting in return?”

The gaiwan paired with the gaiwan shirt just makes it more badass.

Okay, I don’t make it more badass . . . but this could be badass. On someone else. Karl Urban, maybe.

In summary, yeah . . . this shirt speaks to me. And when World Tea Expo comes around in a couple o’ weeks, I’ll be brandishing it. If only to stick out in the crowd. Carrying on, gaiwan in hand.

Keep Calm and Gaiwan On

Photo by Robert Norman.

To buy this shirt, go HERE.

For the ladies’ version, go HERE.


Dark Tea from Taiwan


When Life Gives You Shit, Drink Rummy Pu


  1. I LOVE this!!! Thank you very much! 😊

  2. Hmm, I have adopted the pose you call “Tea Gun for Hire” on many occasions, but this may surprise you… I disagree with your naming it thusly.
    To me, the pose says “I’ll take the tea job you have on offer, but do it my way. Just because you pay the piper, doesn’t mean you get to call the tune”.
    Oh, and stop mucking about with writing and go into acting, already.

  3. This was the most entertaining t-shirt (ahem, tea-shirt) review, I’ve ever read! You really should consider a career in modeling and/or apparel reviews. 🙂

  4. Very big smiles here. Great post on fashion in the tea world. I have a tea shirt that says “I like my tea loose”.

  5. I think you rocked it. 😉

  6. Fun, you sure have an attitude with this……carry on and “Cheers” as your grandpappy Norman would say!!:)

  7. This may be the best tee-shirt review ever.

  8. I am rolling on the floor laughing over here. You NAILEd these fashion poses! Now watch as all of the male fashion blogger pitches roll on in… 🙂

  9. Haaa!!!! Those poses were awesome! That shirt is pretty awesome too, usually I am sick of the keep calm miasma, but this one is pretty sweet…as is the Mortal Kombat one of course

  10. Well, aren’t you fun and flirty in your TeaShirt! Have you gotten many normals inquiring (enquiring) about its meaning?

  11. Loved reading the history in your post and that shirt! Very nice!

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