What’s The Tee? Five T-Shirt Brands You Need To Know About This Summer
What’s the one thing you can’t live without in summer? No, it’s not a vodka-soda-lime. It’s a T-shirt. Whoever you are, wherever you are: you’ll most probably be wearing a short-sleeved tee once the hot temps hit hard. Arguably the best cost-per-wear you can get out of your shopping, the T-shirt transformed from a wardrobe necessity into an investment piece. Whether for the illustration of an artist, a limited-edition colourway of your favourite brand or just that red box with “Supreme” written in it. It’s the entry point into a luxury brand, or an entry point for a creative wanting to become a brand. The choices are many, and even looking into this oversaturated market can feel overwhelming – one cool label with an interesting story popping after another, quickly becoming stocked at (at least) one of the Dover Street Market locations. It’s a race you can’t win.
When looking through the hundreds of emerging T-shirt brands, there’s one important piece of advice to keep in mind. Don’t let the name fool you. There’s a whole method to making up t-shirt brand names and the rules are simple: make it as obscure and totally unrelated to what you’re doing. And then add a random noun starting with the same letter of the street you live on. Or something like that.
Ridiculous labels aside, there are many routes you can go. Ethically made and with a great message? Sarcastic and snarky? An abstract illustration? Or maybe a slogan that only three other people will get? A little bit of each, we selected five t-shirt brands you should get into this summer.
Against censorship, pro humour. When an international group of friends decided to launch Carne Bollente in 2014, the objective was to “penetrate the international fashion market with skill and finesse.” With a wise choice of words, and an even wiser choice of cartoon-like illustrations, these are 18+ tees that might offend some, but will probably make most people smile. Carne Bollente have “sex as it’s only concern.” And you know how horny things get in summer. Their SS19 collection was titled Welcum to Italy and interpreted tourist, souvenir tees in a non-PG way. For AW19, they are going even further – sex positions described in detail. The Afternoon Delight looks particularly fun. Stocked with Opening Ceremony, Ssense and numerous other international stockists, Carne Bollente are a fast-growing brand you should get onto your shopping list and into your wardrobe, before everyone else does.
As far as riding the hype wave goes, Spaghetti Boys have got the hang of it. Originally launching their line of merch in collaboration with Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston back in 2015, Kerwin Frost and Austin Butts make a multi-disciplinary creative collective based in NYC. Taking advantage of their location and connections, the duo (and their former colleague Austin Butts) imagined the brand as a shoppable extension of their creative outlets. And they do it through the power of an ironic tee. Prints and graphics parody influencer marketing, but clearly reflecting musical references. Their e-tail platform follows the same conversation – instead of flat shots, you can see the t-shirts in action thanks to a VR-like layout that will remind you of making your favourite Sim. As if shopping wasn’t fun enough already…
Continuing the irony on our side of the ocean, Old Age is the brand making t-shirts which will take you back to your teenage years. Like most, it was launched by a collective of artists and creatives in London in 2018. The street and skate codes are sprinkled with a heavy dose of teenage angst, reminiscent of the hey-day of emo bands and scene kids with fake lip piercings. Their latest, third collection is called Bored & Depressed, and gently pokes fun at the Instagram perfection that makes up most of what we see online. With “Dress to Depress” and “Fake Fun” written on your chest, you can now show your real mood without even having to give anyone a dirty eye. Proving all the humour isn’t for vain, Old Age are making the world a better place. 10% of the profits from their sales go to Human Right Watch, an international organisation dedicated to defending and promoting human rights around the world. We can be moody and make a change at the same time? We’re sold.
REAL BAD MAN
Like the majority of the emerging T-shirt brands, Real Bad Man are based in L.A. Guess there’s something about that hot Californian sun that makes people think harder about finding creative ways in expressing oneself through the medium of a wearable canvas. Adam Jay Weissman started the label as a passion project, an extra outlet to his full-time job of running a creative agency. The tees are inspired by stoner culture, and repurpose imagery from mass media such as the poster of the 1980s cult classic Airplane!. Spoofing spoofs is fun and Weissman does it well. The logo, a graphic of a shady criminal character slanging stolen watches, represents the appropriation of artwork into the brand’s designs. And just in case you’re not in the market for a te (why are you reading this then?), perhaps you could get yourself a Real Bad Man-branded whoopie cushion. Yup.
Also hailing from the West Coast are Alix Ross & Elijah Funk aka Online Ceramics. And before you ask – no, they don’t sell vases (anymore). Instead, they focus on psychedelic, tie-dye tees printed with graphics that are somewhere between a call for activism and bootleg band prints. Chaos is the word. Online Ceramics also love a collab – they previously teamed up with Grateful Dead member Bob Weir on making merch for his current band, Dead & Company. Last Halloween, the label launched a mini capsule collection dedicated to the indie horror flick Hereditary – a printed tee and a sterling silver pendant. All of their tees are based from American-made blanks and hand-dyed in their L.A. studio in a way that minimises their environmental impact. The choices are plenty, and you can find them stocked in multiple Dover Street Market locations as well as GR8 in Tokyo to name but a few. Or you can choose to shop online – their delightfully sh*tty website is an experience within itself.