Second hand t-shirts – there’s a lot more to them than you’d think

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If you visit stores in Stockholm that sell second hand or even ‘vintage’ shirts, it quickly becomes apparent that someone is bringing in american shirts by bulk. There is just no way that so many used american shirts would end up here by themselves and even the scenario where a Swedish person would go on a buying bonanza, hitting every thrift shop in California, seems unlikely (not to mention not very cost effective). However, that’s where I’ve stopped thinking about it in the past, who cares, right? Well, the other day I stumbled upon this episode of a podcast I’ve been listening to lately, Planet Money, and if – like me – you’re interested in t-shirts, I think you would find it pretty interesting:

Episode 502: The Afterlife Of A T-Shirt

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Not  only do you get an explanation to where these shirts come from and how they end up here, but you also find out what happens to all the other used shirts people give to charity – the ones that aren’t cool enough for european vintage stores. The episode starts with a story that actually sends shivers down my spine, and there’s a moment just after the 14 minute mark that made me whisper “nooooo!” to myself, but don’t worry – it’ll turn out ok in the end. Before you read anymore, listen to the episode, ok?

Great, you’re back. Good huh?

There’s a few thoughts I have on this:

* I bet you could find some really really cool shirts if you went looking in Africa and similar places. I remember a story about Swedish metalheads and die hard Iron Maiden fans Erik and Per Gustavsson (aka ‘bröderna hårdrock’ aka Hellbutcher and Tyrant) watching a documentary about some jungle tribe when they suddenly spotted a true collectors dream super rare Iron Maiden shirt that one of the tribe members were wearing. I doubt, however, that this method wold be financially viable.

* As someone mentions in the comments to the podcast, the thing that does not get mentioned in the episode, is what the flood of second hand clothing is doing to the domestic African clothes manufacturing industry. It’s not doing good things.

* It’s easy to laugh at the criteria the African vendors judge shirts by, it all seems kinda crazy. However, us Swedes are not much better. I see shirts for church bazaars and plumbing companies all the time when I look at what’s called vintage shirts here (and from what I’ve seen of the u.k, they’r not much better) – as long as it’s American, it’s cool. And band shirts… don’t get me started. I don’t know if it’s the Swedish vendors that can’t tell a true vintage band shirt from a cheap knockoff from 2004 or if they bet on customers not being able to tell, but for some reason they all seem to be going at the same price.

Anyway, Planet Money also did a five episode series on the global shirt economy – what goes into producing and exporting shirts. This may sound dull but I didn’t think it was. I may or may not write something about that series too, but there’s no real reason for you to wait for me to do so, right? You’ve got the link to their podcast archive above, go check it out for yourself.

Oh, and one more thing – and this is a big one. The Bat Mitzvah shirt mentioned in the story, the one with Betty Boop on it? The internet being the internet – the original owner of the shirt and the woman who’s Bat Mitzvah it was from – have now been identified and contacted. I love stuff like this!

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Bill Murray and Hunter S Thompson

Yeah yeah, this hasn’t exactly been a happening place lately. There’s tons of stuff I’d love to post but I just don’t have the time. Or the drive. In the meantime, here’s a pretty great photo of Hunter and Bill on a boat, in what I can only assume are custom made shirts. Things looked better before Cafepress….

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Misfits shirts that don’t exist (at least not yet)

Ok, this is not a post about shirts. At least not shirts that exist. It’s about drawings I wish would be printed on shirts so that I could buy them.

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Let’s start with this one. I can’t remember how or why, but for some reason, I started followin Burritobreath on Instagram. He’s stir crazy about things with too many eyes on them, and the other day he posted this fantastic Misfits skull. Count the eyes. Get it? I think putting this on a shirt would get you A) heaps of money and B) a lawsuit from the assholes in the band (I’m sorry – I love everything they did up til and including (yes, including) American Psycho) but everyone who’s ever been in that band seems to be a total dick. Anyway, check this guy out – you can see some of his other work to the right above and buy some of his stuff here. Keep your fingers crossed he prints this. You’ll be the first to know.

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Here’s another Misfits drawing I would love to see printed on a shirt. I probably wouldn’t wear it, since it calls for a light coloured shirt, but it would be great. “Gamla” means “old” in Swedish, so this is a shirt for all the people who dearly love the band’s old stuff, but don’t feel like being associated with the horrible exploding shitbucket and desecration of the name it’s turned in to these days. This one was made by Dadde, who’s been drumming in a number of well known Swedish punk band for ages now. He’s also a tattooer (see some of his stuff above) and a nice guy. Check him out at www.instagram.com/daddestark.

Tecate shirt

tecateI am thinking long and hard about buying this off eBay right now. I like beer shirts (when they look good). I like eagle shirts. I like drinking Tecate. What’s stopping me? Three brimful shirt drawers, that’s what. That, and a wife that thinks I should buy less shirts. The big question is: would she notice?

Sex shirts

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I’m pretty shure this won’t come as complete news to you, but there’s a lot of shirts out there brandishing various sex related prints. Most of them suck. Most of them try to say things like “I’m a funny guy” but actually just say things “I’m a creep”, “I will die lonely and unloved” or “I’m a giant dick who needs a punch to the face”.

These shirts though, I like. I could go on and try to explain why, but today I’m in a “if you get it, you get it and if you don’t then fuck you” kind of mood, so I won’t (but the thing that they both take a stand and both take a bit of guts to wear could be a hint).
No, sorry, no idea where to buy these.

Wake up. Jerk off. Cry.

This shirt is quite obviously home made, so why am I posting it? Just as a reminder that you can still make powerful shirts if you’ve got something to say, they don’t all have to be slim-fit, discharge printed tri-blend shirts with super slick designs. Remember though, this very very rarely works so be sure you know what you’re doing. If it takes guts to wear, you’re doing it right.

Drink nog and worship Satan!

Well, they ain’t shirts, but you know… now and then I write about other things too. This guy buys bargain bin albums and satanifies them with a quite humorous twist. Check it out at Bargainblasphemy!

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If you act fast, you can buy some of these on eBay too.

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