In case there would ever be any doubt about Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s status as a nerd (which is hard enough to even imagine), one would only need to take a look at the shirts he wears on a regular basis. Over the course of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon builds up quite the impressive wardrobe of hundreds of shirts referencing topics ranging from the scientific to rites of science fiction passage to more niche corners of nerd fandom.
Sheldon’s personality and emotional maturity in particular might change a lot over the years, but his sartorial style is a relative constant in the ever-changing world of the series. Some shirts are worn more frequently than others, but there are those that stand out as a cut above the rest.
D20 – “I Win”
The nerdy pursuits of Sheldon and his group of friends are varied and constantly changing with the times, but one subject matter the guys always come back to is Dungeons & Dragons.
That game gets a cheeky reference in this shirt that Sheldon often wears: a vibrant red t-shirt depicting a D20 dice, also known as an Icosahedron, with a simple, to-the-point caption — “I win.” The D20 is one of the most commonly used dice in the gameplay of Dungeons & Dragons, which makes the shirt’s reference one that any fellow D&D fan would understand.
This next shirt gets to the heart of Sheldon’s love for the beauty of mathematics and science alike, even when the peculiarities of both fields might not excite others as much as they do him. At first glance, the shirt is both simple and confusing: a blue tee with the number 73 in a circle.
But to understand this shirt’s significance, Sheldon perhaps explains it best: “The best number is 73. … 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror, 37, is the 12th and its mirror, 21, is the product of multiplying — hang onto your hats — 7 and 3. … In binary, 73 is a palindrome, 1001001, which backwards is 1001001. Exactly the same.”
Old-Fashioned Locomotive Train
Sheldon Cooper loves many things: routines, physics, flags, sitting in the same spot on the same couch every day. But one of his biggest passions is trains in all their forms.
This shirt is yet another simple but perfectly in character design fitting for Sheldon’s special interests: a mustard yellow tee featuring an old-fashioned locomotive train, precisely the kind Sheldon probably most wanted to conduct.
The Wesley Crushers
This next shirt touches on an incredibly niche area of the nerd world, an incredibly niche area of the series as a whole.
The third season episode “The Wheaton Recurrence” finds Sheldon and friends dueling against his longtime nemesis Wil Wheaton in a bowling tournament. It’s during these games that Sheldon comes up with a name for his bowling team, and a shirt to match it: The Wesley Crushers. This is a reference to Wheaton’s Star Trek character and is stamped on the back of a mustard-yellow bowling shirt.
The Greatest American Hero
The Big Bang Theory is filled with references to plenty of mainstream nerd fare, whether Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or countless other options. But sometimes, the series has fun with referencing lesser-known or lasting pieces of popular culture, such as this Sheldon shirt does.
This red tee features the logo of the short-lived 1980s series The Greatest American Hero. Perhaps best remembered for its theme song, “Believe It or Not,” the quirky series hasn’t quite held up in the pop culture consciousness in the way other superhero shows have.
Television Test Pattern Bars
Sheldon’s love of television isn’t just limited to sci-fi shows, as this frequently worn shirt makes clear. At first glance, it might not be obvious what this design refers to, largely it’s more or less obsolete.
However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this baby-blue tee features a representation of the classic multi-color television test pattern known as the SMPTE color bars sequence.
Evolution of Man and Robot
Sheldon may look down on biology in all its forms, and quite regularly, too, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying a shirt design that humorously depicts the evolution of humans — with a twist.
The red shirt design makes use of the traditional series of human development but takes things one step further as the yellow graphic design concludes with human’s technological evolution into a robot.
The Vitruvian Superman
Yet another of Sheldon’s best shirts perfectly blends his favorite worlds of science, science fiction, and superheroes. Though occasionally hard to distinguish due to the lightness of the print on the dark blue background, this design is an homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.
But rather than the traditional depiction of human body proportions, this design includes a crossover with the hero Superman, cape and all, in the pose of the Vitruvian Man.
Melting Rubik’s Cube
One of the more artistic designs in all of Sheldon’s wardrobe, this shirt is also honestly just plain cool to look at it.
Still in keeping with Sheldon’s love of all things nerdy, this plain black tee features everyone’s favorite brain-twisting toy, the Rubik’s cube. But, as can be clearly seen from the vibrant rainbow puddle at the bottom, the Rubik’s cube is somehow artfully melting with no clear cause.
Sheldon Cooper loves many superheroes, but from the beginning of the series, it’s clear that he has a true favorite in the Flash. It makes sense, given the Flash’s own background as a scientist, and Sheldon’s pride in his line of work.
Therefore, it’s only natural that perhaps the most iconic shirt to be associated with his character is this simple athletic red tee featuring the traditional logo of the Flash — a yellow lightning bolt emblazed on a white circle background — with white ringed stripes on the sleeves.