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Defunkd Turns 20!

Defunkd 20 Year Anniversary


Defunkd Turns 20!

We are now the definition of vintage. It’s hard to believe – time has flown by.

It all started in early 2004 when I witnessed the first wave of online vintage t-shirt sales erupting on eBay and thought, “That looks easy enough!” (Spoiler: It wasn’t)

First, I conjured up the name and registered the domain. My pal Colm built the website, while another friend created a nifty Flash intro.

I miss Flash.

Meanwhile, I stockpiled inventory I thrifted, which I then photographed on actual models. Ok, they weren’t actual models, just friends that I pleaded with to stand against a hand-painted backdrop in my bedroom (thanks, Heather, Christina, and Neiland!)

This was  in the vintage t-shirt era when you could see the shirt on an actual human being – rather than just on a hardwood floor. I always thought it was a nice touch.

In the early summer months, we started a series of eBay auctions with some custom HTML embedded in the listings so they would pop. We even ponied up for professionally printed backdrops.

This is what our eBay listings looked like back then (Thanks to Amy M!)

In 2005 we partnered with Stephanie Hynes to launch Defunkd reworks for women. At the time, on eBay, the trend was called “DIY.” We’d use damaged, stained, ripped, or not yet vintage T-shirts and Stephanie would magically rework them into different style tops.

They sold like hotcakes, and her creations ended up getting featured in a hop hop magazine called Elemental.

Elemental Magazine Issue 72 Defunkd DIY Spread

She even hosted a fashion show at a nightclub in Toronto.

MySpace was huge at the time and we both had polished accounts and made as many friends on there as we could, only the coolest ones made the top 8, lol.

In 2007, we won an eBay award.

In 2008, we revamped our website, launched a blog and started showcasing and documenting vintage t-shirts and tags, as well as monitoring prices and trends. At the time it was becoming obvious t-shirts were entering the realm of collectibles and we all needed a devoted space to nerd out about them. The first blog entry we published showcased high-selling vintage clothing on eBay. Check it out here here.

In 2009, we launched a community forum, where authenticity became a topic of discussion, a response to eBay’s first wave of counterfeits. One of the first engaging posts was about the infamous Beatles Butcher tee, you can check it out here.

To further combat forgeries, we started issuing authentication certificates with every order.

Vintage t-shirt authenticity certificate

We printed up blank certificates in business card size format and then started marking each card with a unique number – and kept track of it on a .txt file on my computer. It wasn’t very sophisticated, and it was pretty short-lived. But here’s the actual list of t-shirt certificates we issued.

If you happen to have one of these cards kicking around, please get in touch with me, I’ll reward you for it!

Over the years our website and logo had several different designs and variations.

But not everything has always gone according to plan.

Dun dun dun.

We tried launching a vintage-inspired t-shirt brand called “The 13th Floor,” featuring designs referencing classic 80s movies and TV shows, like Ferris Buehler and Magnum P.I.. The brand was so short-lived that it’s almost as though it didn’t exist.

We also tried a rework brand called “El Dinosaurio” that was meant to be a Lacoste/Le Tigre knock-off. We’d embroider the Dino logo on unbranded collared vintage polo shirts or sweaters we found during our picking rounds. Especially on anything “striped,” that was a popular keyword to put in listing titles. At the time (2005), preppy wear was in the midst of a huge revival—hipsters were rocking them with the collars popped. But El Dino never sunk its claws into the market and it went extinct shortly after.

El Dinosaurio

We even added a kids’ vintage tee section to our eBay store called “Defunkd Junior.”

I don’t think a single sale was made and it was immediately put in a timeout.

After scrapping countless other little projects it was time to focus on what might be our biggest and most promising move yet.

In 2011 we launched a vintage t-shirt marketplace, called The Vintage T-Shirt Collective. The goal was to create a platform where everything was authentic by onboarding only the world’s top and most trusted vendors.

Here’s how it looked at the time of launch:

It had an awesome first year.

But that quickly plateaued for the remaining seven. People were too attached to eBay, Etsy – and there was a handful of corporate backed newcomers like Grailed entering the market. Facebook pages were abandoned for Instagram and deals were transpiring through DMs. Everyone was selling from everywhere, and our platform was quickly becoming outdated, it wasn’t even mobile friendly.

Feeling completely defeated, we shuttered it in 2018. Then I considered selling Defunkd after a few parties made offers. But there was just too much sentimental value to let it go. I knew I would get nostalgic about it one day.

So we decided to take a break, and I had a great reason to, I was a stay-at-home-dad to my two sons, both of whom were still in diapers.

Every failure is always a learning experience. We realized that vintage t-shirts were our lane and it was what we loved the most. Our strength was in content and our community.

In 2020, once I got the kids in school and daycare, Defunkd started mounting a comeback. All 14,000+ listings from our our vintage t-shirt marketplace were converted into an archive. We revamped our site and relaunched our forum. We dove back into creating quality content, guides, news and trends. We hired writers and content creators and continue to innovate in the authentication space. We expanded our social into the Discord realm.

So what’s next? For one, I have to start tackling the sale of the vintage t-shirts that have been collecting dust for the last years – so I’m trying to workout how that’s going to be. Do I go back to eBay? Etsy? Stick with IG? There’s a few other big things in the pipeline I can’t speak to yet, but they’ll come alive by 2025.

In the meantime my skills as authenticator will be kept sharp via our forum (feel free to submit legit checks here), on IG and via our articles as we continue to monitor and expose new counterfeiting trends.

Now for the best part.

We’re celebrating by giving away 20 t-shirts. The top three giveaways include a vintage AOP Iron Maiden t-shirt, a 3D Emblem Harley tee and a Stussy tee. We’ll be releasing the full details via IG on Monday May 5th.

Cheers to 20 more!


P.S. Defunkd has always been about community, so the biggest thanks goes to you. This truly has been a collective effort.

P.P.S. Shout-out to all the other OGs who supported us by advertising. I managed to find their original ads on a defunct hard drive, enjoy.

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Jimmy founded Defunkd in 2004 when he started selling vintage t-shirts online. 20 years of experience later and he hasn't looked back since. Actually, he looks back all the time given he's a sucker for nostalgia. For more, check the history of Defunkd and Jimmy's Expertise.

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If you're looking to Legit check your vintage t-shirt, please register in our forum and submit photos.

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