Capital T

Get thee behind me Chloe Sevigny

Chloe Sevigny’s latest collab for Opening Ceremony didn’t knock my socks off – it looked a lot like the stuff I find all the time on the sale rack at Urban’s – but her collection of T-shirts and half-shirts bearing Robert Mapplethorpe images gave me that anxious, excited feeling I get when I want something. Alas, they are almost $200, so I just went out to my back porch and smoked a cigarette, like so many people with frustrated desires. Here, let’s look at what we can’t have:


Anyway, the ts got me thinking about ts. Mostly t shirts are horrible, right, because of Urban Outfitters probably. We’re all sick of everyone speaking their mind on a t shirt. I really don’t care about how most people feel about anything, or what their life preferences are, etc. But it is just this prevalence of crappy t shirts that makes finding a genuinely interesting t shirt feel like winning fifty bucks on a scratcher. Here are some gems:


that's right

Blood is the New Black made that excellent YSL RIP t after Mr. Saint-Laurent kicked the bucket. They have produced like a bazillion t shirts and I truly like about a quarter million of them, especially the ones with darker, druggie or Satanic themes:


you've been warned

gateways drugs

sex magic: the devil's tantra

the most wicked t shirt that ever lived

Blood is the New Black also make less evil t shirts:

I thought alien not monster, but monster makes sense, too.


name dropper

It's what I write.

This makes me think of these two total anarchist crusty girls I was on Muni with last week. They had homemade punk rock BEYONCE patches stitched onto the back of their crappy jackets. I loved them.

I love literary t-shirts! I’m wearing my Closet Case She Wolf Virginia Wolf shirt right now! Here’s another good bookish shirt, from Sophomore, some t shirt designers from New Orleans:

Yes! Here’s another from them, a super-goth riff on the fake band Big Fun’s hit from the film Heathers, which I just revisited this Thanksgiving and it really stands the test of time:


It gets better.

I wish someone would make a Cookie Mueller t shirt, or a t shirt of any of Nan Goldin’s photos, or from David Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud in New York series.


We are all of us in the gutter, yo.

Okay, Worn Free is amazing – they find pictures of cultural icons wearing some long-ago t shirt and then they remake the shirt. I just love this so much, I mean conceptually. And bunches of the shirts are fantastic! Here is groupie/muse/punk rock fashion plate Bebe Buell wearing an Oscar Wilde shirt! And now you can wear it, too! But you can’t have an gnarly love affair with Stiv Bators, because he’s dead. STV RIP!

shirt piece

If anyone loves me they will buy me this for my birthday.

Yes he fucking did.

Ooh la la!

My money's on Basquiat.

Hype Means Nothing made these excellent shirts for the unfathomably cool boutique Colette in Paris. They’re really into making t shirts of celebrities putting their fingers around their eyes. Whatever floats your boat, man. I like these two pieces a lot.

fuck yeah

Marc Jacobs made the gay marriage fight a little less, um, well . . . you know, with this t shirt! It sure beats legalize gay. Mr. Jacobs has used t shirts to express his political beliefs before, like:


political prisoner

Showing support for his bestie Lil Kim when she was sent off to the big house, with this t shirt featuring the songbird jailbird looking so innocent! She’s hugging a teddy bear for god’s sake! Does this woman look like a criminal to you?!

I’m sort of bummed that I didn’t know he made this t shirt of my favorite magazine, but then again I probably don’t want to wear a t shirt with a picture of Sting’s daughter on it.

Marc Jacob’s t shirt collaboration with Maripol, the downtown stylist and photographer that got Madonna (and you) wearing rubber bracelets in the 80s, is actually pretty lousy. Why didn’t they just slap a bunch of her awesome photos on some shirts, I’da bought a bunch of them! Unlike Chloe Sevigny, Marc’s ts are pretty affordable. Anyway, I do really like this zebra is in, leopard is out pronouncement. It makes me think of Raymond Pettibon, another person I wish someone would make a t shirt series about.

you go, girl

Like a hippie tarot deck I once had said, You gotta have an ego to go on a trip. If I was on the cover of Interview magazine I’d  make a t shirt out of it, too.

I saw this t shirt by New Zealand’s Clothesline in a shop in Provincetown and have been sad for a year that I didn’t get it.

. . . though I like this one by Portland’s Squarewolf even better.



The Seventh Heart in San Francisco has a bunch of excellent t-shirts. Check it:


so, so true



townie luv 4-eva

I don’t know who made these. Probably Banksy. Hilarious! Reminds me of the moment in the 90s when I wanted to make Nobody Knows I’m JT Leroy t shirts. And, speaking of –

Original Plumbing magazine’s Nobody Knows I’m a Transsexual is the most genius Nobody Knows t shirt since ACT-UP NYC’s anti-Basic Instinct Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian Serial Killer. Which was actually confusing, since it sort of sounded like maybe you were a serial killer who targeted lesbians. And Catherine was a bisexual serial killer, anyway. Everybody Thinks I’m A Lesbian Serial Killer But I’m Really a Bisexual Serial Killer. Much better. Represent!

No discussion of t shirts would be complete without a shout out to Henry Holland’s House of Holland ts which salute designers and models with cheeky rhymes and bold graphics.


It's a British thing and I don't understand.

His newer line of ts sticks to designer homages with cute scrawly portraits, and sticks to his main muse, Agyness Deyn to show them off.

And I will end this excursion into high end t shirts with Vivienne Westwood‘s infamous Cambridge Rapist t shirt, sold in Malcolm McLaren’s equally infamous Sex boutique in London during the infamous punk years. Obviously the shirt is fucking creepy, and I never really understood it until I toured the UK with Sister Spit and saw the way British tabloids exploit rape on their front pages, sort of right there next to naked chicks with giant, fake bazoongas. And by bazoongas I mean tits. It gets so sensationalized that it starts looking like a joke, a piece of dark camp, and it’s really hard to know what to make of it. A t shirt seems about right. And I’m out.




About Michelle Tea

I chanted "I am a fashion magnet" in the shower and subsequently found a Gianni Versace - era Versace skirt at Buffalo Exchange for $17. Once I got a beyond-my-means Fendi purse for free and sat staring at it, crying. Also cried at Olivier Theyskens' last show for Nina Ricci in Paris. Other things that make me cry: a good lip synch; my emotions. I have stolen two Jeremy Scott swag items from two Jeremy Scott events I was not quite invited to. Sometimes I want to age into Patti Smith, sometimes Baby Jane Hudson. I frequently dream I am in a magic thrift store where I can have whatever I want. I regret not buying the Alexander Wang purse when it was half price at Barney's. Like a delusional guy at a strip club, I feel special when the people who work at Barney's remember me. Having a Leo rising gives me big hair and a need for attention. My favorite designers right now are Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Viktor Rolf, Rick Owens, Rodarte, Helmut Lang and Surface to Air. I was once shamed by an employee of a high-end department store for pronouncing 'Rodarte' incorrectly.


  1. what an awesome topic, handled with in-the-know fashion sensibilities and aplomb…several times i found myself squealing “I want that!” and then you ended up with my first ever westwood t-shirt, perfect. i really enjoy IBC

  2. additionally I’m sad to report that The Seventh Heart retail outlet has suddenly closed–I just noticed this last week because i live in the building where it was located. I really liked their t-shirts and clothes. They left no notice of new location or anything. just thought i’d mention it.

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