Written by Ray Masaki
This topic was suggested by my buddy and fellow New Yorker, Bryan of Doctor Hazmat, who I incidentally met after first talking to him via twitter. It’s certainly an interesting question, but unfortunately I probably hold a heavy lean towards the idea that technology has greatly helped the t-shirt community. But to be fair, I’ll try to look at both sides of the table.
I suppose when I first started looking into making t-shirts in high school (around ’06 or ’07), there weren’t as many online communities as there are now. I remember trying to find a printer for the first time through the local white pages. It wasn’t that there weren’t services online yet, I was just naive, so I only thought that crappy printing services like Cafepress and Spreadshirt existed. Of course, I was also very inexperienced at that time, so I didn’t realize that there were resources like t-shirtforums and it might have been a little bit before mintees started up.
However, as I learned more about design, and t-shirt design in particular, I became more and more involved in the online design communities, and religiously followed t-shirt design blogs. Technology, and the internet especially, make it easier than ever to market yourself. I can’t even imagine not having the internet as a resource, because I wouldn’t know where to start. I suppose I would try to find a local printer and try to get a better understanding of the processes or get an internship at a clothing brand, but with the computer, all of those resources are literally at your fingertips. With the addition of social media sites like facebook and twitter, as well as running blogs, it’s also easier than ever to market yourself.
To be honest, a way that technology has hurt the t-shirt community is that it almost made it too easy for people to make clothing brands. Any dumbass kid with a pirated version of Photoshop thinks that they can make a t-shirt and post it online nowadays. I wish it were a little bit harder, so that it would weed out all the shitty brands. But obviously, I stood in the position of a shitty inexperienced brand at one point, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to get off my feet without the help of online resources.
Another thing that I’ve been noticing lately is the homogenization of a lot of indie t-shirt blogs. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a problem, but it seems like a lot of the t-shirt blogs cover any and everything about t-shirts. I wish there was a bit more of a filter rather than posting every new t-shirt that’s released. So now, even if you do get coverage on a popular t-shirt blog, not only will it be at the bottom of the site by the end of the day, but also people just don’t care as much about one specific release, if there are hundreds of new t-shirts being posted daily. For that reason, I rarely ever look at t-shirt blogs anymore, and get inspiration from other sources. Just looking at art and fashion in general is a far better resource than seeing what Clothing Brand X just released.
That’s why I find that the older brands like Stussy, Supreme, Staple, 10.Deep, LRG etc. are so amazing. They had to go through the straight up hustle of selling from their car’s trunk or selling at shows and just spreading their name by word of mouth. They didn’t have mintees to post their latest launch on, or youtube to post their hype videos. It’s like when I think about how shitty rap and hip-hop has gotten. I feel like technology has made people lazier. With the internet, it’s possible for jokes like Soulja Boy to get popular, because they didn’t have to go through the hustle of impressing people at open mics and really honing their skills. Obviously it’s not easy to make a name for yourself or your brand regardless of what you do, but technology has certainly made it easier and has made people definitely more lazy… myself included. Gotta step my game up!