In Defense of the Graphic T-Shirt

They don't all suck. You just need to know where to look.

By Reuben Brody

The Grown Man’s Guide to Graphic Tees
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23 June 2016

Thirty years is old isn’t old. You’re still a young man. But you’re not a boy, or a bro, or a manchild. The first cosmetic thing you can do to solidify this is refrain from wearing t-shirts with big logos, tour dates on the back or anything with pop cultural commentary (sorry fanboys).

You’re not someone else’s advertisement. No one cares what kind of statement you’re making. A man’s t-shirts need to be simple, made of high-quality materials and preferably plain.

However there are some exceptions a casual man can make, and here they are:

Patterns that are either artistic or natural are cool
Check out the geo flower pattern Matuse makes here. It’s simple and has an eastern mystical motif that doesn’t smack of hippy-dom. Also, this shirt is cotton yet silky soft.

Patterns of everyday objects should be done subtly
Surfing blog Indoek’s black boards tee is a good example of this: two surfboards criss-crossed is subtle, elegant and pleasing to the eye.

Proper nouns (cities, names, companies) should have an elegant font

Four good of examples:

  1. Going big: Saturday’s NYC makes use of the entire front of the tee, but the logo is broken up so it doesn’t dominate and speaks to the Big Apple’s history
  2. Going small: Stampd goes lower case with a san serif
  3. Going historic: General Admission goes historic and iconic with helvetica in a circle, characteristic of Venice’s surfing heritage
  4. Going with a logo: Sunspel’s 1930s logo is reincorporated and muted, making it classic and subtle

Vintage shirts are still cool because they’re timeless 
Weathered, soft and lightweight and faded. If you have time and know a good vintage store, great. But getting a new shirt that’s made to look vintage is a step up, plus no one else has sweated in it. Kelly Cole and Lot Stock and Barrel have great taste and are well made. Made Worn has the rights to all of the Rolling Stones’ graphics but you’ll need to make an appointment because he makes his to fit perfectly and are worth the high price. 

Graphics work, but tread lightly
A graphic tee rests on the strength of the image being added to it. Make sure the photographer is off-the-charts good, like this one FUCT did with rock photographer, Adrian Boot, of Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh from ‘78.

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