Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
In the grocery store or at the airport, Dick Rosemont’s shirts turn heads.
“It ranges everywhere from someone walking by and saying ‘Oh, nice shirt’ to ‘Wow’ and creating a conversation,” he said of the comments he gets from passersby.
And those who know Dick, like the tellers at his credit union or the people who fill his prescriptions, always stop to check out what shirt he’s sporting.
“Where we encounter people semi-regularly, they get to know I must be wearing something fun,” he said.
Dick and his quirky wardrobe – button-ups made with designs showing broccoli, soda cans and pie, to name a few – co-star in a short film that will play at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival this week.
His wife Jane Rosemont’s four-and-a-half minute film – or “short-sleeved” film, as its website describes it – is a part of the festival’s New Mexico Shorts program, a selection of local films.
“The main thing is this film is not going to change the world,” said Jane, a photographer and filmmaker. “This isn’t about anything heavy. But for four and a half minutes, you’re not going to care.”
The couple moved to Santa Fe from Michigan about eight years ago. Dick is also the owner of the Guy in the Groove record store at 502 Cerrillos Rd.
They have been together for 40 years. “I was there when it was flannel shirts,” Jane said with a laugh.
But even those, Dick pointed out, weren’t plaid. He recalled wearing flannels covered in old Western scenes.
Dick has been wearing his trademark shirts for more than 25 years. He described getting into it as an “organic evolution.”
Due to his love for music, friends would often gift him commercially made shirts with records on them. He said the shirt collection may have been jumpstarted during a visit to Portland when he went to a department store selling fabric patterns. At the time, he was in a band called Mystic Shake.
“It occurred to me that maybe we should have someone make shirts for the band,” Dick said. “There were five people in the band, so I bought five different food materials. And I got first pick, which was the tomatoes.”
Over the years, he’s searched for new fabrics whenever he and Jane travel. He either ships or hand-delivers his fabric of choice to his seamstress, an old neighbor of the Rosemonts back in Michigan, making all of the shirts one of a kind.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “Music, food, novelty, outer space.”
But he won’t settle for just anything unusual.
Jane described her husband as “fussy” about his material. According to Dick, he takes into account color, design and design layout.
“I don’t particularly like things that are too symmetrical and all neat,” he said, pointing to the shirt he was wearing, with a balloon animal pattern. “This is more random.”
A lot of thought also goes into the creation process, Dick said. He noted how the patterns on the front of his balloon animal shirt match up in the middle. His French fry shirt, he added, has red buttons to symbolize ketchup.
Today, he has about 25-30 wearable shirts – some have had to be “retired,” he explained, mostly due to too many runs through the dryer.
Transforming grief into joy
In the past year, “Shirts!” has played at festivals in Hollywood, Michigan and New Jersey.
Jane, a photographer for many decades, made her first film, the short documentary “The Pie Lady of Pie Town,” in 2014. Ever since, people have suggested she make a movie about her husband’s signature shirts.
“I thought that was the most stupid idea,” she said. “It’s like ‘Oh yeah, that’s real interesting.’ ”
She later changed her mind, however, after losing three close family members in one year. In the midst of her deep grief, someone mentioned the shirts idea again.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, how can I convert this big thick ball of ugliness (the grief) to something that’s sheer joy?’ ” said Jane.
The film helped Jane get through her time of loss, she said, while also allowing her to spread some joy.
“It just makes people happy,” she said.
“Shirts!” was filmed last year during a one-day shoot at a photography studio in Santa Fe. The Rosemonts were assisted by a “shirt wrangler” – in charge of all ironing needs and managing the shirt rack – and friends who created an original score.
To avoid having the film become just a fashion show, the film consists of brief “shirt tales,” scenes based on the designs on Dick’s shirts. The couple jokingly referred to their shirt selection process as the film’s “casting call.”
“I was trying to think of how I can make this happy little shirt tale without having him do the catwalk,” Jane explained. “So I thought, we can try to have him make a balloon animal” when wearing his balloon animal shirt. Clad in a dollar-bill-patterned shirt, Dick is shown catching bills falling from above. Wearing one covered in planets, he’s the victim of an alien abduction.
The couple has collaborated on artistic projects before, but never like this. According to Jane, this was the first time she had to direct her husband.
“And it works,” she said. “We’re friends. We’re best friends. That’s key.”