The worst material is usually inside the store, such as a "blumpkin" shirt. Don't Google "blumpkin" at work.
The shirt that set Donna Short off was actually for a baby, a baby whose parents would probably wear the "I just pooped" shirt you'll find outside several stores. The baby shirt said, "Whose t-- do I gotta suck to get a drink around here?"
"I'm talking about shirts that say 'High as F---,' " Short, of Wildwood Crest, told the Daily News. "There's no interpretation there."
First Amendment blues
Last month, Short went to the Wildwood City Commissioners meeting to get some answers on the deluge of dirty shirts and found sympathetic ears, including that of Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr.
But part of our "American Swag" is the freedom of speech that the First Amendment protects, and the only solution to dirty T-shirts is simple supply and demand.
The Constitution allows you to buy a shirt that says, "Your face makes my penis soft," and Troiano has little recourse except to ask store owners to keep the worst shirts inside.
"It's difficult to ask a city to control taste. . . . People's morality, people's respect and people's nature has just changed," Troiano said. "If people didn't buy it, it wouldn't be there."
There's certainly supply on the boardwalk, with dozens of stores selling the same shirts, one clone after another up and down the strip.
Shop owners say that most of their sales are simple "Wildwood" shirts, and that most everything else is a niche, including the questionable shirts, the slogans that bubble up from pop culture (YOLO - You Only Live Once) and, oddly enough, a hundred variations of the British government's "Keep Calm and Carry On."
Lately there's the "trollface" shirts, which look as if a 5-year-old drew them and have something to do with Internet trolls, according to the Internet.
"I don't even exactly know what they are, but they sell," said Joe Sakkal, a native of Egypt who runs several shirt stores on the boardwalk. "If you don't have this kind of stuff, you might as well close up shop."
Sakkal thinks people focus on a handful of "joke" shirts amid the hundreds on his walls. He points to a row of baby shirts with slogans like "My Grampy Loves Me" on them. Outside, though, hangs a beach towel with about a dozen strains of high-grade marijuana pictured.
"We have lion faces, Jesus Christ, angel wings with guns," he said, extolling the variety.
There are shirt stores on the Wildwood boardwalk that don't sell sex, drugs or expletives. In some of them, there's a reason: landlord Andy Weiner won't allow it. Weiner, a third-generation business owner in Wildwood, makes the restrictions clear in his lease and wishes more landlords would.
"At the end of the day, there's people out there who buy that garbage," Weiner said. "It's not a subject of debate with my tenants. I will go in there and clean house."
UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment expert, said that as long as offensive material isn't pornographic, policing it is a job for the private sector, people like Weiner, not local government.
"Even if f--- were written out, that would be constitutionally protected, even in a public space," Volokh said.
A "blumpkin" shirt, though, with a stick-figure interpretation of a lewd sex act, is a close call, he said.
Better than that
Wildwood's Boardwalk Chapel has weathered all the summer fads since 1945, and Pastor Bill Slack, a guest minister, said that as much as the shirts sadden him, he's cautious to call for censorship.
"They're not suggestive at all; they're simply raw and demeaning," he said of the shirts. "It indicates that people have a lack of respect for themselves and for women. We have to try to be better than that."
Troiano said that Wildwood's not the only town that sells stupid shirts. As much as he doesn't like them "in his face" on the boardwalk, he's even less tolerant of people in tonier shore towns, with more genteel promenades, using his town as a punching bag.
"We're not trying to offend anyone, but we're like the [31-flavor] Baskin-Robbins of the Jersey Shore," he said. "Wildwood is a microcosm of today's society."
Contact Jason Nark at 215-854-5916 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @JasonNark.