August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Motorhead T-shirt has grown into an iconic piece of clothing, and it has come to symbolise the violent, brash and vicious nature of Heavy Metal. Which is kind of odd because Lemmy always seems like such a nice chap.
Long ago, in an age where musicians didn’t really have to care about looks as long as they could play their instruments, this guy called Lemmy turned up in the psychedelic rock band, Hawkwind. The other guys in Hawkwind were all heavily into taking acid – a drug that slows you down, mellows you out and makes you see pink flowers growing out of your fingertips. Lemmy, despite having been Jimi Hendrix’s acid supplier, was more into speed – a drug that makes your blood and mind race like Bolt and Blake in the 100 metres final. Lemmy didn’t last long in Hawkwind, and soon departed to form Motorhead. The name was a reference to the nickname given to anyone who took speed habitually, and thirty odd (very odd) years later, Motorhead are still going and they are still the loudest band on the planet. Trust me, I went to see them last year at the Brixton Academy and I couldn’t hear anything for a couple of days after.
But the band needed a symbol. Hawkwind had been all about tie-dye and beads, but that wasn’t exactly a heavy metal image. Luckily, Joe Petagno was on hand to create the fanged, horned, tusked face that has seen hundreds of variations since its beginnings in 1977 when it appeared on the band’s self-titled debut album. It’s known as War-Pig (or Snaggletooth) and has featured on nearly all of Motorhead’s album covers since its creation. It gave the band a look. A mean look. And, due to its now iconic status, it will survive, like Lemmy himself, for a long time and against all odds.
This particular version comes from the official Motorhead store where it costs $19.99, comes only in black, and in sizes L-XXXL (most Moterhead fans tend to be a little larger). It is Metal personified, instantly recognisable, and as wonderfully ugly as it was in 1977.
August 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Ramones T-Shirt is now something that we see every day, and many variations have been created on the theme. But the fact that a t-shirt created by one of the most unlikely bands in history could become as mainstream as it has today, makes this an Iconic T-Shirt.
If you were hanging out in CBGB’s, a grimy little club in Queens, New York in the mid-late 1970s, you’d have seen a few bands and musicians play there that are today household names. There was Blondie, Patti Smith and, later on, The Police. Then there were these guys. They couldn’t play their instruments, they looked like they were from the local gang, the singer’s voice was as ridiculous as it was unusual, and they were playing something that would eventually be called punk rock. Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone, sporting bad hair, leather jackets and ripped jeans became one of the most important (and undervalued) bands of the 20th century. When they played the Roundhouse in London in ’76, members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and others were in the crowd. These guys made punk rock.
The band’s logo which features on this t-shirt was designed by Arturo Vega, an artist from New York who lived with Joey and Dee Dee. He also started printing the t-shirts. It takes the seal of the President of the United States and gives the bald eagle a baseball bat. It’s subversive, striking and instantly recognisable. And it contains the great mantra of the Ramones – Hey ho, let’s go. It’s the perfect symbol, not just for the band, but also for an Iconic T-Shirt that is easily more recognisable to a lot of people today than the band’s music (and as a fan of the band’s music, that’s a little sad, but I get it).
If you want one, you can find them all over the place. If you want to see a selection of designs though, I recommend checking out ramonesworld.com which is still run by Arturo Vega. There’s lots of choice, so have fun.
August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Frankie Says Relax T-Shirt is as much a part of the 1980s as red suspenders, filofaxes, the films of John Hughes and Thundercats. That’s why this makes the Iconic T-Shirts list.
Long before the ‘chill pill’ and the ‘chillax’, and even before Bart Simpson told us not to have a cow, Frankie told us to relax. Many people won’t know who or what Frankie Goes To Hollywood is (and thankfully, I’m young enough to have only caught the tail end of the 80s) but this t-shirt was a big deal, and you still see it around from time to time. If you are a bit unsure (you whippersnapper) then I’ll give you a brief summary. They were a British dance-pop band that had a hit single in 1983 called Relax. The name sounded innocent enough, but the video and a closer examination of the lyrics pointed towards it being overtly sexual, and in a decade as conservative as the 1980s, the fact that it promoted homosexuality was also met with enough frowns to get it banned by the BBC. They had a couple of other hits, but nothing that garnered the popularity of Relax which became one of the biggest selling records of the year around the world.
The t-shirt is simple – bold, black words on white – but its place in society was more complex. It had obvious appeal to gay men and fans of the band, but others used it simply because the message on the t-shirt suited them – relax. The 80s were a hectic decade full of disillusioned punks and yuppies. In Britain the cold war still raged, there were race riots, war with Argentina, mass unemployment, recession, Margaret Thatcher… if ever the people needed to be reminded to relax once in a while, it was the 1980s. So as much as it was part of gay iconography, it crossed into the mainstream and any t-shirt that can do that deserves its place in the list of iconic tees.
You can find a good retro version on truffleshuffle.co.uk where it costs £20.00. The sizes available at the time of writing this post are small, XL and XXL but other sizes are available when in stock. So if you want a blast from the past and a message that we could still use today, this is the Iconic T-Shirt for you.
August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
Che Guevara T-Shirts have become a common sight across the world, and whether the wearers know of Che’s life or ideals, just from sheer volume (with a hand from good design aesthetics), the Che tee has to be included in the Iconic T-Shirts list.
Who’d have thunk it? The face most often seen on t-shirts, from all over the world, would be that of Ernesto “Che” Guevara – Communist revolutionary and Cuban guerrilla fighter. Coming from a century full of icons, both political and popular (sic), Che won the war to feature on more t-shirts than anyone else. In fact, these days, these shirts are known as “Cli-Che” due to their popularity and the fact that almost every teenager who awakens to political thinking immediately picks one of these shirts up and starts living in it. Many moons ago, I did so myself.
The design itself is simple, though there are many variations on the theme. A silhouetted face, staring out from the material. Its expression is one of pride, determination, passion and hope – though you may see something different if his ideals don’t match your own. That’s why, despite its overuse, misunderstanding and manipulation, this image will go down as one that not only defines t-shirt history, but also the image of 20th Century.
I found this one at thechestore.com (though you can find thousands of different versions all over the place). This one will set you back $18.99, it comes only in red and sizes range from small to 4XL – with some additional costs for the larger sizes. Viva la revolucion – although if you want to be truly revolutionary, you might need to find a new tee.
August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
This Punisher T-Shirt marks the first in a series of Iconic T-Shirt that i want to cover on this blog by taking a look at some particularly important tees. Also, it’s a design that has always been freakin’ awesome.
The Punisher Skull Tee makes it into the Icons list because it’s a t-shirt that is as recognisable (if not more so) than the man who wears it – former Navy Seal, Frank Castle. In fact, looking at it, it’s way more recognisable. It’s a curious design for a curious character. The skull’s eyes have been made to look as if they’re glowering, and the elongated teeth make it almost alien, but that summed up The Punisher pretty well. Unlike so many of Marvel’s creations, he didn’t have any superpowers and, like Batman and Iron Man, relied on massive firepower to fight crime. But beyond this, he didn’t wear a costume – the only thing identifying him was the t-shirt. That, and he carried so many guns, it made the other two super-powerless heroes look like boy scouts. He even had a comic book series called “Armoury” that had no real plot and instead just showcased the extent of his arsenal. He broke a mould in the comic book world (also because he was as much of a danger to society and a criminal as he was a hero), and he couldn’t have done it without this t-shirt.And the other great ploy by Stan Lee’s company (whether intentional or not) is that by not having a utility belt, armour, or even a spandex onesie, his look was accessible to the fans – anyone can pull of a t-shirt!
And that’s why, the Iconic T-Shirt series begins here. A tee that allowed any fan to emulate his hero, that also offered a design that has always been cool – whether your tastes are geeky or not.
This particular version (and there are many – ranging from super simple to supremely stylised) can be found at truffleshuffle.co.uk. It’ll cost you £17.99 as well as some p&p, it’s available in M,L and XL and it’s only available in black.
Stay tuned for more T-Shirt Icons!