The Story Behind the “This is Not a Fugazi T-Shirt”, Tee
Fugazi never made their own tees. But this opened up a huge opportunity for bootleggers and Ian MacKaye admittedly spent a ton of time tracking them down. He discussed it in an interview for The Art of the Band T-Shirt and detailed how there is one exception to his anti-Fugazi t-shirt policy.
“I managed to trace one design back to a fairly well-known t-shirt company in the Boston area, and I called to tell them to cut it out. I spoke to the main guy there, and, of course, he wanted to do a deal. And, of course, the answer was still no. Still, we had a nice chat. He was curious why we didn’t want to sell shirts, and after I explained our position, he seemed to respect it. About one month later, a friend at a record store alerted me to the ‘This is not a Fugazi t-shirt’ shirt. I traced it back to the same Boston dude. What a smart motherfucker he was! I called him up and said, ‘Okay, you’re funny and you’re creative, so let’s see how creative you are with accounting.’ I asked him to choose an organization doing good work in his community and give them what would amount to the band’s royalty for the shirts. I think he chose a women’s shelter up there, and as far as I know he sent them money right up until he quit the business.’”
With a little digging, I discovered the operation he was talking about was called JSR Merchandising Group (or JSR Underworld Merchandising.) I managed to get in touch with a former owner. He did confirm the deal and offered a few more details.
“We made contact with the straight-edge guys Dischord label. We did Bold, Chain of Strength, Judge, and Minor Threat. Fugazi didn’t want to have the capitalists making tees… so we made this ‘clever’ [This is Not a Fugazi T-Shirt] tee. We agreed to pay royalties to a homeless shelter in Boston. Rosie’s Place – which we did.”
At one point, JSR printed a version that has a “©1996 Fugazi” copyright on it, under the “T.” I recently authenticated one on Legiteem8, which was confirmed to be authentic by three JSR reps. Big thanks to Brett and Jeff.
Very cool turn of events – a bootleg tee eventually turned legit. And even cooler that it benefitted a shelter for many years.
So How Did a “Fugazi T-Shirt” Make it into the movie Mud?
This weathered Fugazi tee makes a rare cameo in the Matthew McConaughey flick, Mud. It’s a wonderful slow-burning tale about a handsome and captivating convict hell-bent on reuniting with the woman he loves. He’s aided and abetted by some little dudes who facilitate their complicated relationship. The tee is worn by a pre-teen badass named Neckbone.
The era of the film is a bit of a mystery – but it’s definitely pre-2000 since not a single cell phone ever appears in the flick. Given Fugazi was formed in 1987, it’s possible it could be the late 1980s. Factor in that it’s set in the Arkansas delta, which wasn’t/isn’t on the cutting edge of technology – it could have been set well into the 1990s.
So how could a youngster possibly be wearing one? And how the hell did the costume designers get clearance for the t-shirt to appear in a movie – given bands often say no and Fugazi is particularly anti-t-shirt?
We dug around a little bit to find out how it made the cut. Writer/director Jeff Nichols explained to the Washington City Paper how it all went down:
“I was a huge fan of Fugazi growing up and I was thinking a lot about certain things in my life from the time period that I was Ellis’ age. My brother was in a punk rock band in Little Rock, and there was a pretty good punk rock scene in Little Rock, so I was listening to a lot of Jawbreaker and Fugazi and everything else. Working on this script reminded me of that time and when I was building my characters, the character of Galen, Neck’s uncle (Michael Shannon) was written as this sort of washed-up punk rocker. If you look through his house, you’ll see a bunch of flyers and things from Little Rock punk shows.
What I was thinking [when writing Neckbone], was that this kid would have a hand-me-down Fugazi shirt, which of course would have had to have been homemade. It’s funny though because we went had to get permission to use a Fugazi shirt, so a producer called whoever Fugazi’s representation is and they wouldn’t give us permission because they never made T-shirts! But we found a fan-made shirt online and asked if we could use that. I didn’t think they were going to let us use it and—I don’t know, I wasn’t involved in this process—I remember telling one of my producers ‘Well, if we don’t get Fugazi, we’ll just make a Jawbreaker shirt.’ But we were able to use the Fugazi shirt.”
BTW, check out Ryan Gosling’s Metallica Ride The Lightning tee in A Place Beyond The Pines.