“Merchandise, It Keeps Us Alive”
I’ve got a big cotton albatross around my neck and it’s covered in band logos and pithy sayings. I am, of course, talking about my gigantic collection of t-shirts. It’s mostly music-related, but over the years, I’ve acquired all sorts of t-shirts. I’ve got one from a Jaguar dealership that says “Life’s too short to drive anything else,” on the back. I’m not sure about that. Frankly, I have reason to believe that life’s too short to drive a car notoriously plagued by problems like a Jaguar. The era from which this shirt came from is when Jaguars shared tons of parts with Fords that cost a quarter of the price – I digress.
What I’m getting at is that I have a lot of shirts. I have a goddamn lot of shirts. I told my last girlfriend that I collected t-shirts and she said, “So do I! How many do you have? 50?” Higher. “100?” Higher. “200?” I don’t know. Truth be told, I’ve never counted. Her eyes went from enthused to stunned, eyelids shifting lifted to pulled-back. I could tell that she thought it was cool until she realized just how many shirts I had. Collecting shirts isn’t like collecting records, it’s not something that people recognize as a cool subcultural thing. Collecting shirts is something that hoarders do. It’s not cool to be a closet. Around the time we broke up, she attempted to help me get rid of these things and sell them online. It felt like picking which lung I wanted to lose. I was overwhelmed. I think we listed 12 shirts in an afternoon and I was dizzy. I sold four or five and marked the rest as sold and never told her. If you read this, Mal, sorry about that!
I’m focusing on this a lot right now because I’ve decided to move back to Denver in less than four months. That’s a third of a year away, but it’s really not that long. I’ve got to make plans, I have to decide if I’m getting movers or shipping my collections (books, records, shirts). When I moved to New York, I took everything from my old apartment in Denver and crammed it into a van. What I didn’t need or couldn’t bring, I left at my parents’ home in Indianapolis to be shipped to me at a later date. Some of this stuff, like a Vitamix I got as a gift for my 28th birthday, never even made it out of the box it was in. Looking back on it, I am sure that there’s something to be said about that and my comfort level in New York.
Anyway, I’m going through all of these shirts and deciding what to keep, sell, and donate. I listed 20 shirts today and sold two (big win over here). I’m keeping the best stuff, obviously, but I’m starting to realize that I think all of it is pretty great. I have a keen eye for design, what can I say? I remember reading a quote from Virgil Abloh talking about how he would try to collect everything he appreciated, and how that led to him not even appreciating everything he collected. I’ve reached that tipping point, so now I would like to attempt to appreciate the things I’ve had. This will be a recurring column over the course of my move. I’ll be selling most of these pieces on depop (@Listenupnerds over there), but make no mistake about it: this isn’t an advertisement for you to buy these. This is my attempt to appreciate some cool stuff I’ve picked up over the years and let it go.
Seaweed - Visualize Tacoma
Seaweed is one of my favorite bands. They’re from Tacoma, which is NOT Seattle. They still wound up making grunge music on Sub Pop, but it’s a different strain of grunge than your typical flannel-and-wailing-vocals idea. Seaweed were basically a hardcore band live and the records were only dialed down a couple of notches. This is a bootleg of an old Seaweed shirt that says “VISUALIZE TACOMA” on the back. I’m still not sure what that means. Most of what I know about Tacoma is that it isn’t Seattle. Anyway, I love it. I love a vague forceful statement on the back of a shirt, meant to cause confusion. “You couldn’t understand me, you don’t even know what my shirt means.”
Unified Right - If I Can’t Listen To Unified Right In Heaven, Then Send Me Straight To Hell
Without a doubt, this and its counterpart in deep closet storage (the same design on black), are my favorite shirts that I’m letting go of. This is my favorite merch design, maybe of all-time. It’s cribbed from a truck stop t-shirt the band saw at one point, if I can recall it correctly. The Unified Right record is one of my favorite hardcore albums of the last however-many years. It’s 20-some minutes of hardcore dislodged from preconception of what the genre should be. It sounds like other bands, for sure, but it swings around and shifts tempos up and down, giving your first listen a twinge of whiplash you chase on future listens. Real talk: If I can’t listen to Unified Right in heaven, then send me straight to hell. I stand by that. I never got to see Unified Right play a show, but I did see Fury cover “Cashin’ That Check” at Sound & Fury and that’s maybe just as good. If you have this on black with white print in an XL (these were only sold at Damaged City Fest, I do believe), I will buy it from you. I know I’m not supposed to buy anything new while moving but I don’t care.
My Bloody Valentine by Supreme - Feed Me With Your Kiss
Honestly, I loved this collaboration. I think this was immediately decried as hypebeast moodboard bullshit by “music fans” but I thought it rocked. MBV was ripe for this sort of thing and I think it looks great. It’s faithful to original designs from this era and it isn’t too gaudy with the co-branding. I wish I bought a hoodie with the loveless cover on it. I’ve still got the rayon shirt with the all-over print of the loveless cover. Great shirt, 10/10. I’ve seen a Stussy shirt that emulates that same sort of look, but it feels like it’s chasing this high. I’d wear the Stussy shirt as well, I just don’t wear collared shirts all that often because I’m a member of the proletariat.
I’ll post some more shirts when I don’t have a ton of content available. If you see anything you’d like to purchase, send me an email and I’ll hash it out with you like old times.