It's no big revelation to say tee-shirts are, at least to the geek community, kind of "a thing." There's an enormous market out there pandering to our collective desire to wear our passions on our sleeves, and that's fabulous. Styles range from the obvious 1-Up mushroom to the obscure Weyland-Yutani corporate logo, and I would be lying if I said I didn't want to supplement my wardrobe with a bunch of them. The less obvious shirts, particularly, provide the opportunity for connection and conversation when someone recognizes the reference you're sporting. I roll a little differently in my choice of geek apparel, and my references are often totally unrecognizable.
I'll provide an objective example, before I break out my own personal crazy. Friend of mine is the spitting image of Hugh Laurie, ginger, fifteen years ago. He's all too aware of this, and dresses in layers of faded tees, button-down shirts, blazers and jeans. This style of dress is subtle enough to not appear costume-y, but rather enhances his natural resemblance in an understated way. Sometimes, very rarely, someone will stop him and say, "You look just like the guy from House!" and he blushes as red as his hair. It wouldn't mean much if it were just someone he looked like, but dressing as a character who appeals to him tips it over the edge to subtle cosplay.
Right now I'm wearing a shirt I purchased because it looked, to me, like something Harleen Quinzel might wear, were she a real person, and not running around in crazy latex at the time. Also inspired by everyone's favorite former psychiatrist is the teeny tiny "J" necklace I often wear. No, I'm not kidding. The last jacket I purchased, I did so because it reminded me so much of Rose Tyler, and I swear to goodness those giant pearls look just like Lisa Simpson's. My old white blouse? Dana Scully. That one tote bag? Liz Lemon. It's not just clothing, either, although clothing does constitute most of the cosplay; Gwen Cooper convinced me not to grow out my bangs, and I can't say I haven't tried to emulate one of Buffy's many hairstyles.
This is daily cosplay, dressing as a non-costumed character, or as a costumed one might on their day off. The latter, particularly, presents a creative challenge, and often leads me to learn more about a specific character, pulling different comics to expand my understanding. This approach to fashion lets me play dress-up every day, and goes unnoticed by just about everyone. Actually, neither my friend nor I ever expect to have our dressing up recognized for what it is. The "hey, cool tee-shirt" reaction is nullified with this approach to geek fashion.
It's a highly personal endeavor. No one may comment when I wear my "J" necklace and put my hair in pigtails, but I go throughout the day with an extra spring in my step, the result of dressing up like such a bubbly nutcase. It makes my favorite characters feel more real, more approachable, and if that makes me a little nuts, well, I blame the shirt.
I may not wear my geek passions emblazoned across my chest in any obvious way, but chances are good that I'm secretly cosplaying. Doing so prevents me from latching on to the latest trends, but who cares? It may not change the way you approach your interests, and certainly some characters are simpler to approach than others, but I bet you'd be surprised what you can do to pay homage to your passions in the subtlest of ways.
I have one request for the gentlemen readers. If you're thinking of utilizing this approach, and consider channeling Bruce Wayne, do not use Batman: The Animated Series as your guide. I'm all for guys in suits, but brown double-breasted suits with yellow shirts are never advisable.