Department of Anthropology

Dress for Evolutionary Success

Dress for Evolutionary Success

We’re now used to the idea that almost every benefit event that we participate in, from a 5K run to a walk against cancer, rewards us with a t-shirt printed up just for the occasion.  Well, why not a t-shirt for our college courses?  This is an idea that has played out in Professor John Kappelman’s course in Human Origins and Evolution (ANT 348) that he has taught at the University of Texas at Austin for the past 25 years. 

The field of human evolution is a topic that grabs peoples’ imaginations, and the imagery of skulls and skeletons is perfect for capturing an idea.   Kappelman teaches the upper division course in human evolution and holds a t-shirt design contest every spring.  Students submit original designs that are then voted on by the class.  The winning design is printed up for the class at one of the local shops in Austin and the student who wins the contest gets a free t-shirt.

As seen in the accompanying images, the designs range from poetic to punny, fossiliferous to farcical. 
One design mimicked that of a rock band tour, with the student listing the names of famous fossil localities from all around the world on the back of the shirt.  However, students were not permitted to wear that t-shirt to the final exam because those in the front row would be at a marked disadvantage during testing.

There have been some truly outstanding designs over the years and the popularity of the contest often results in students ordering extra shirts for family and friends.  Kappelman tells his students that it is never too early to start thinking about the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative!  

dress for evolutionary success