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THE BEST T-SHIRTS OF 2011

Another year has come and gone. We ate, we drank, we made merry. We made babies and we made noise. Such is life. It will be another millenia until we get to share taglines about 11/11/11 on Facebook again. The earth got angry and cracked down on Japan, the NYPD did the same in Zucotti Park. Waldo and Osama finally had to say goodbye, and English people wore big hats. All the while, streetwear did what streetwear does best – re-appropriated cultural nostalgia for the common people. I present to you the top crop that made an impact on this humble blogger and no, I’m not going to rank them because we both know that’s stupid.

To start with the Biggies, Alife had a pretty good year. They did some direct action with OWS and collaborated with Staple. Their website remains a quandary.

Bands I would never listen to from yesteryear and beyond made staggering attempts to get a piece of their merch to go viral. Some attempts were WAY better than the music they promoted. The cream of the crop was Pierce the Veil‘s merch line.

And thanks to Tumblr, some truly worthy musical nostalgia really did go viral. Such as Work It‘s homage to R.Kelly’s Homie, Lover, Friend.

 

Smart people asserted their coolness with a surprisingly chic line of Physics and Astronomy themed tees at the Imaginary Foundation. My favorite is their Dr. Michio Kaku tee, this man can turn theoretical physics into a blockbuster.

One of the best submissions this year has got to be Baltimore brand, Agio Life. Their ‘Everybody’s Ass is Up for Grabs’ release is offensive, disturbing, and addictive in a Story of O kinda way.

Mishka may be the first brand in over 40 years to make wearing tie-dye permissible without listening to a Phish album playing on a walkman from inside your matching fanny pack.

OFWGKTA makes the play from music to streetwear after the release of Goblin last year, and wins. The Odd Future x Golf Wang collective is a marketing force to beware. They make stuff like this:

Streetwear err..royalty, FUCT, celebrated 20 years in the biz. Congratulations Erik Brunetti keep ‘em aware of the Love.

Occupy Wall Street challenged politicians and financiers where it hurt the most for all the world to see. In return, the powers that be resorted to warfare, at first on the local level, but with the clandestine signing of NDAA on New Year’s, it looks like 2012 will be the dawn of a legal police-state in America. Inevitably, Protest T-shirts abounded from good old spray can ‘n’ stencil designs to full scale corporate production. Many manufacturers did the right thing and forwarded at least a portion of their profits on to the movement (like DemandChange on Zazzle at left), but some were not so honest. The prime example was rapper and genuine 1%er, Jay-Z, who produced an ‘Occupy All Streets’ tee…then told the movement to go screw itself. Tis one thing to make a fortune publicizing your past career as a pusher in a struggling neighborhood, its a whole other injustice to make a buck of the same people’s will to better their futures and not share a penny. Someone please get that man a copy of A Raisin in the Sun.

One door closes and another opens. For moviegoers, that means without Harry Potter we are left with (shudder) Twilight. For Dream a Little More, after the success of ‘Potterhead’, they’ve got a brand.

As a New Yorker, I believed that living in Chicago for a year would be like NY lite. Well, I was wrong. For the record, Chicago throws the best parties. My Chicago readers are shaking their heads “I know!”, while the rest of you say “Hawhah?@? What is this chic smokin’?” The problem is that any time a solid act tries to get booked out side of Chicago in either NYC or LA, the agents say “Meh” and move on to some local losers with less talent and more centralized hype. Well Fake Shore Drive, Enstrumental, Leaders 1354 & Eschmitte pretty much have only this to say:

How come every other model for a streetwear brand I come across looks like some bootleg version of Justin Beiber? Streetwear is the offspring of switchblades and bitches, boards and 40s. Sufficient to say, the poutier your model, the less cred you get. Thus I nearly snorted milk when I came accross DPCTED‘s highly publicized Chubby&Tattooed&Bearded&Awesome tee.

I’ve really got to get out to Cape Town, South Africa because more and more it seems like the axis of quality creativity now-a-days. Take Colus Havenga, the master behind the Colus brand. This guy took a simple B&W genre and just galloped away with it.

Stussy gets the award for diggin’ up the coolest topics for inspiration this year, for instance their homage to Creepy Magazine. But I think we are all in agreement when I say their line commemorating the return of Mtv’s Beavis and Butthead has a special place in our hearts.

Kanye West threw on this tee one day, and pretty much solidified Givenchy and Ricardo Tisci’s viability in the streetwear market.

Mike Giant and Joshy D. take the cake for applying the graffiti principle of duplication to t-shirt branding this year. If you haven’t caught the Rebel8 giant prison tattoo around just about every corner, then I don’t know where you’ve been.

Chunk Clothing has not only cornered the Bike Polo market with their custom gear, but the UK brand has mastered the art of image licensing. In a year inundated with Star Wars Nostalgia, Chunk earns first place.

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