took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
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Most T-shirts worn: 120
This is the story behind my Guinness World Record™ for the Most T-shirts worn.
Have you heard of
obsessive-compulsive disorder? People who have it
commonly do things repetitively. Now that I look back on
this world record, I wonder if I don't have
obsessive-compulsive disorder. Here's my reasoning. Just
about every human being alive wears one shirt at a time.
There really isn't any need to wear more than two at
most, if one is caught in the cold unawares. As for 120
– there can be no explanation but an obsession with
T-shirts. One after the next, I burrowed into them.
Something's not right with that fellow, people must have
I made this attempt in my early
world record-breaking days. This wasn't the first
T-shirt attempt I'd been involved with, though. A friend
and I had tried to fit on as many shirts as possible at
my house one day. It was more for fun than anything
else. As you can probably tell, without taking it too
seriously, our 'test' failed. We thought it was worth a
laugh. But nobody else did. I put the idea to rest for
over a year; then when this opportunity arose, I
immediately took an interest.
I had spent several days on the
telephone, calling shops and clothing suppliers, trying
to raise sufficient interest in my plan. As with most
things in life, I faced rejection after rejection. But I
am always hopeful so I kept pushing my luck. In this
case, my method worked. A friendly woman agreed I could
use the piles of T-shirts in her shop so I went to have
a look. There were indeed piles of men's, women's and
children's shirts blocking the corridor at the rear.
Where to start! Thankfully, the shop owner had a lovely
young assistant who was happily preparing to sort the
garments into sizes, and place them in an order which
would help me. By the time this was done, there were
boxes stacked high with neatly folded shirts of every
I returned sometime later, once
medical personnel and witnesses had been arranged. The
shop owner had placed notices in the window, and most
customers were stopping to chat about the advertisement.
As people walked past, in and out, I completed the
necessary admin and indicated to the owner we could
the home video, I bared my chest and the friendly young
helper handed me the first T-shirt of many I'd be
pulling on. Ten, twenty, thirty, and so it went. My
armpits were beginning to hurt as material constricted
my arteries. My neck was chafing on the many shirt
necks. And I was gradually warming up. Because my
movement was being slowly reduced, my helper had to
begin actually dressing me – in a shop window. She saw
the humour and didn't mind. It was hard work for this
young lady, nevertheless. I saw droplets of sweat
building on her brow, probably from the physical effort
required to pull each shirt over the others. They had to
be tugged right down so they fitted in the normal way.
Not only my helper was perspiring.
The shirts were forming a solid layer, something which
felt similar to being in a plaster chest cast after a
serious thoracic injury. I couldn't turn to the left or
right without manoeuvring my entire body: I'd become a
rigid block of flesh and tight-fitting material. I was
top-heavy too – more than once I almost fell over,
unable to stop myself without the others reaching out to
balance me. I could barely lean forward to make it
easier for the young lady to place each successive shirt
neck over my head. With increasing effort, she managed.
The breaks she took were becoming more frequent and
longer each time, quite understandably.
Never give up, I reminded myself,
dreaming of how much I wanted the world record. By then,
I knew I resembled a squashed frog. My arms were
protruding at 90 degrees to my sides, as though I'd been
crucified to an invisible frame. The necks of the
T-shirts had formed such a thick layer, I couldn't speak
without straining my head back and mumbling over the top
of them. My head was fixed in the forward position and
my hearing wasn't as sharp as always: I had shirt
material just covering each lower earlobe. Sweat snaked
its way down my lower back, which by then was no longer
touching the stiff wall of shirts over it.
All these temporary inconveniences
were practically irrelevant compared to the fear I was
developing very, very fast. When I first found I
couldn't breathe using full lungs, I used all the mental
power I could draw on to prevent panic from setting in.
This was the single most important thing to me right
then; well, maybe equally as important as getting my
hands on that certificate...
I was soon using my chest muscles to
push out the tight layer so I could breathe freely. But
I couldn't. A twinge of dizziness made me correct my
balance. The others asked if I needed help, but all I
wanted was to get every shirt on. I felt more shirts
being pulled onto me. Try as hard as I could, there was
no way I had the strength to expand my chest under all
that weight. So I tried a different tactic: many smaller
breaths. The dizziness worsened. Almost not able to bear
it any longer, I used every kilojoule of energy in my
system to force my lungs open. Unbelievably my lungs
filled to their maximum and I felt relieved instantly.
I'd just set the routine: several small breaths and one
big breath with effort. So I continued. This was
dangerous, I knew.
Thankfully, my helper was reaching
the end of the pile of shirts and I was being tugged on
hard every time she got another shirt on. Within a
quarter of an hour, it was all done – there was no way
the young lady could possibly force another shirt onto
my acquired bulk. By then, my mind was drifting away and
I wasn't bothered by whatever was happening. I heard
comments, saw spectators taking photos, and felt others
punching the shirts to appreciate for themselves how
much weight I was carrying. All this was somewhat
blurred to me.
To this day, I can't remember where I
mustered the will, the energy, or the insensibility to
do what I did next. I managed to walk over the road into
a shopping mall where I took a stroll. Up the escalators
I went, around the mezzanine floor and back to the shop
where I'd made the attempt. Yes, I got a number of looks
in disbelief, but I also annoyed some shoppers by
unintentionally hitting them with my outstretched arms.
Months after I'd completed the
admin, the world record certificate arrived. I was
pleased. In fact, I was so pleased, I tried to beat my
own world record. What a stupid thing to do, Alastair!
Wearing fewer than a half dozen shirts from a new world
record claim, I began suffocating. Paramedics had to cut
the shirts off my chest as I lay in a different shop
window under an oxygen mask. When I was rested enough to
concentrate, the chief paramedic warned me that if he
and his colleague had not been able to get the T-shirts
off in time, I would have suffered brain damage.
Its funny to me now, but that's because I'm fine – and by that I mean I'm still as mad as usual.