Style in the WildThe Toughest World Trade Center Construction Tees
Construction workers have proudly rebuilt lower Manhattan—and it shows on their backs.
Construction workers around the World Trade Center are hard to miss—for the past 15 years they've quite literally rebuilt Lower Manhattan after the unthinkable events of 9/11. Though One World Trade Center is complete, there's much left to go up in the neighborhood, and every morning the construction workers can be found taking coffee breaks while suits pass by on their morning commutes. Most wear fluorescent orange and yellow t-shirts, a requirement for union guys on the job. The bright colors are arresting, sure, but the truly striking thing about these uniforms is what’s on the back—mean-as-hell union graphics, patriotic imagery, and even ads for worker law firms, all rendered with charmingly direct and unapologetic design. The tees convey toughness, pride, and camaraderie, but at the end of the day, they're just downright cool.
One guy named John, who’s been doing marble work at the Oculus for 11 months, has bought about 10 “Freedom Tower” tees out of a truck that pulls up near One World Trade Center for a few hours every morning at around 5:00AM. The tees cost $10 off the truck, and many more are distributed through unions or as gifts when big projects are finished. Graphic tees have been around forever, but lately designers like Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh—who titled his Spring-Summer 2016 collection "Blue Collar"—have picked up on the undeniable authenticity these construction tees convey, and elevated them into the realm of high fashion. When told about this expensive designer workwear, a union guy named Eddie, who’s going on two years at the World Trade Center site, said, “They won’t get $150 from me, but hey—you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Here, a collection of the best tees snapped in the neighborhood near the GQ Style offices at One World Trade Center.