Right now, I am wearing a T-shirt with the G4 television logo on the back. The front is a splash image for their show “American Ninja Warrior”. I did not buy this shirt, but I “earned” it. It was a give-away, what they call “swag” in some circles, and my wardrobe is filled with such items.
I have T-shirts that no longer fit me, stored away in boxes and at the bottom of drawers, kept simply because the artwork represents a memory. Several of them were given to me in exchange for some act of brand loyalty; others were handed out as prizes. My most recent addition was swag from a live event at Alcatraz island, courtesy of Ford; it was part of a larger campaign, but the event was a game that only a limited number of people could play. It is in this sense that I earned them, as payment for time gladly spent on an activity that I enjoyed, and gladly wore them with pride in my involvement.
Other shirts were given to me in exchange for my time, both paid and unpaid, but with the expectation that I would wear them and continue their marketing effort with free advertising. Some came to me from people who attended a trade show or convention, and I use those as work shirts or (depending on the size) to sleep in.
During one period of my life, I was exploring alternative work opportunities, and I was recruited by a talent agency. The “acting” gig was really a product demonstration shift in a department store; the product was the newly-introduced Swiffer® Sweeper(tm). To look like an official company spokesperson, they gave me a bright-lime-green polo shirt with the Swiffer logo. I got paid for two days at minimum wage, and I got to keep the shirt (plus 100 dust wipes!). After only once or twice through the laundry, the logo faded and the fabric was scratchy. I never wore it again.
Now I find myself on unemployment again. I hope to never be desperate enough to ever do product demonstrations again — even for a free T-shirt.