I finally managed to get my hands on all the vintage t-shirt books published in the last few years. Truth be told, I would recommend any book that contains photos of vintage tees, even if it was scribed in crayon by a two-year-old child.
Title: Ripped: T-Shirts from the Underground
Meet the author: Cesar Padilla survived through a horrific childhood incident – the loss of his entire t-shirt collection at the hands of his mother. Twenty years later and he’s managed to restore a portion of his collection and recapture his Sunset Strip glory days via poly-cotton.
Number of shirts inside: 200+
Buy it: Amazon / eBay
Reading this book is like hanging out with a bunch of people that are way cooler than you. The closer you were to the front lines of these musical movements the more you’ll appreciate it. If you’re looking for mainstream vintage t-shirt porn, look elsewhere because this is the most niche of all the vintage t-shirt books. And with a new vintage t-shirt book emerging yearly, this themed piece is one future authors should take note of.
The primary focus of Ripped is counterculture music and vintage t-shirts are the medium best fitted to tell the story. The blurb inside describes it as a visual history, but don’t expect an actual history lesson – do that on your own time. It assumes you’re in the know and it can’t be bothered to explain much. It scores points by speaking directly to its intended audience and remains true to the counterculture attitude it glorifies. Kudos for not sacrificing integrity by trying to appease the masses.
But then I stumbled on some Run DMC t-shirts and assumed I was in for a real treat given the book had so accurately represented other genres. One of my favorite examples of this is an amazing Kraftwerk tee that exudes the history of electronic music. With this in mind I started fantasizing about what might appear next from the hip hop persuasion: a DJ Kool Herc or a DIY New York b-boy t-shirt? Maybe some rare Sugar Hill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa or Grandmaster Flash swag? Nope. Just two token Run DMC tees and they stand out like a sore thumb.
I felt ripped off in the rap category, but Ripped still rivals Vintage Rock T-Shirts in terms of obscure pieces. And unlike the Vintage Rock T-Shirts collection I doubt Ripped’s shirts would ever be put up for auction. The inspiration behind the book and its nifty write-ups make it clear the sentimental value of these tees trumps the almighty dollar. The cynical intro by Lydia Lunch is tops compared to those we have reviewed in the past which have all been way too wordy and Pulitzer poised. The rest of the contributors are welcome additions – one even discusses digging through the drawers of the deceased Sid & Nancy. Oh and if you’ve ever wondered the history behind John Lennon’s New York City tee – it’s in the book.
I highly recommend adding this book to your collection, it’s perfect (as long as you close your eyes on pages 170 and 179).
Additional Vintage T-Shirt Book Reviews.