Attack of the killer Ts - Page 2

Are T-shirts the eternal hipster uniform

Bill Graham Presents still sells vintage articles and reproductions on its Wolfgang's Vault site (, though if you want the real thing, you might have to settle for the Doobie Brothers and Exodus rather than the Stones and Hendrix.

A buyer for one of the largest buy-sell-trade clothing stores on the West Coast, Red Light Clothing Exchange in Portland, Ore., Easley can pinpoint the beginning of the recent rock-T trend to the late '90s when designers began buying vintage shirts and modifying them with grommets, trim, and patchwork. "They were able to do that because they were so cheap," she explains, citing Lara Flynn Boyle as one of the first celebs to sport a T (Bob Seger) on the red carpet, and attributes the longevity and cultural relevance of the rock-T trend to the resurgence of new bands such as the White Stripes.

American Apparel's sexy softcore ads and no-logo trendy styling haven't hurt either, while street artists have taken to embellishing Ts as they might a skateboard, and fashionistas continue to layer short-sleeve with long-sleeve Ts in what Easley calls the "Spicoli surfer look." To her eye, the urban art trend "raises all sorts of sociological questions. It's from the street and supposedly authentic and tends to be pricey — it's not what a street rat can really afford. There's the price of a shirt and who's wearing it and who's supposed to be wearing it — you're buying into a lifestyle." Personally, she'd "love to see a resurgence of do-it-yourself T-shirts, writing on T-shirts making personal statements."

Easley confesses the overall rock-T trend is waning. "It was such a fashion fad and so oversaturated. The sense of exclusivity that made it really hard at any other part of this decade to find T-shirts is gone," says the writer, who got into collecting by way of a Mötley Crüe obsession. "But I think long term it has been great for rock T-shirts and put them into the collectible realm."

Steven Scott, the manager of Aardvark's Odd Ark (1501 Haight, SF; 415-621-3141), agrees that the trend for music Ts seems to be ebbing, while morphing from a '70s to an '80s focus. The store's personal best: a Michael Jackson "Thriller" T, which sold for $125. "You can't get that for it now," Scott says. "But [the appeal] is like San Francisco rents — they never go down, and landlords keep hoping people will come back."


When shopping for a vintage T — or really any T — Rock Tease coauthor Erica Easley says, "It's all about the image. I don't care about the band, even though I'm always excited about a good Alice Cooper T. It's all about a strong image, colors, and, personally, a shirt where I don't have a sense of computer-generated graphics."

When looking for oldies, do, however, beware of fakes. "The colors won't be correct, the green is too bright, or the cut wasn't being produced at that point," Easley warns.


Ringers, jerseys, worn-soft garb adorned with Firesign radios and corny sayings: Aardvark's re-creates the thrifter's thrill of discovery with a jam-packed rack of oldies.

1501 Haight, SF. (415) 621-3141


The most fashion-conscious print-free Ts around, regardless of how you feel about the jailbaity marketing campaigns. Gotta love me some blouson and dress-length styles.

2174 Union, SF. (415) 440-3220; 1615 Haight, SF. (415) 431-4028; 2301 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 981-1641.


Customize your own cool: this international chain provides the iron-ons, puffy wood-panel lettering, and brightly fierce '80s accessories. Where else can you get spanking new-old "Cheer up, emo kid," Mr.

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