Vintage Band Tee or Fake? Joint Custody Shares 9 Tips to Spot the Real Thing
May 12, 2023 @ 11:00am
Gene Melkisethian of Joint Custody clues District Fray in on how to spot authentic vintage band tees.
The popularity of vintage band tees is higher than ever — and so is the market for bootlegs. Whether you’re a fan of an ’80s and ’90s artist or just looking to stay on trend, there’s a good chance you’ve been sold a reprint that was marketed — and priced — as an original. With some help from Gene Melkisethian, co-owner of U Street record and vintage store Joint Custody, we’ve compiled the most important information you need to find the real thing. Photos by Farrah Skeiky.
Vintage Tee Shopping 101
1. “Look right at the top of the neckline inside the shirt and see if there’s a tag,” says Melkisethian. Most shirts from the ’80s and ’90s have sewn-in tags, not tear-aways. If there’s a heat-pressed “tag” instead, it’s probably a reprint.
2. Single-stitched hems were common on shirts made before the early ‘90s. After that point, most shirts were double stitched. But there are exceptions.
3. The ink on ’80s shirts is screen-printed — you can feel it. Cracked ink is common on those. If the ink is as smooth as the fabric, it’s likely a bootleg (exception: white shirts).
4. Eighties shirts are thin; ’90s shirts are a bit thicker. Reprints from the early 2000s onwards are soft — too soft.
5. Sizing can be fickle. An ’80s large fits more like a ’90s medium. Melkisethian urges buyers to learn their measurements: “Find a shirt that fits from any era. Measure it across, under the armpits, and from the tag to the bottom.”
6. Small tears can be fixed, but dry rot is forever. A dry-rotted shirt will have a slight sheen, “caramel-y smell,” and dust. Pit stains are unavoidable in vintage tees. “At least they were wearing deodorant when they were wearing the shirt,” Melkisethian says.
7. For vintage rap and hip-hop shirts, sometimes vintage fan shirts are cooler than the official merch. These shirts are more commonly bootlegged. “You have to touch a couple real ones to get a feel for them,” Melkisethian says.
8. Always wash your shirts on the gentle cycle, cold, and hang dry. “It’s better for the planet and your shirts will last longer.”
9. “You should be buying shirts that you want. Even if you’re a dealer, you should be dealing in what you like.”
Joint Custody: 1530 U St. NW, DC; jointcustodydc.com // @jointcustodydc
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