Vintage TeesOCTOBER 2023
This is a story about vintage t-shirts and the people that love running in them. We sourced the runners from the POSSESSED readership and had them fill out a little questionnaire. It turned out really nice, proving once again that people are rad and we need more of them. Now, let’s talk about vintage t-shirts real quick.
If you are over 30 years old, you will have at some stage owned a t-shirt that would now qualify as ‘vintage’. Quick experiment: Close your eyes and think about that t-shirt. Maybe it was a Nirvana t-shirt, maybe it had Bart Simpson on it. Perhaps it featured two pigs copulating beneath the words ‘Makin’ Bacon’ (classic). Once you’ve recalled that old, much-loved t-shirt from your youth, ask yourself this—where is it? Where is that old t-shirt that is more than likely worth $1500 on eBay now? Where do all the t-shirts go? Really? If I could relocate every t-shirt that mysteriously vanished from my wardrobe over the years, I’d be eating cookie dough in Capri, and not much else.
LOCATION: Costa Mesa, CA
T-SHIRT: 1980s single-stitch, 'Circus Circus' t-shirt
I bought this t-shirt maybe seven years ago for $14 on eBay. I love a good deal when I see one! My favorite type of vintage tees are the weird obscure ones that you know nobody's ever seen. When I was a kid, I remember my grandparents taking me on a vacation to Circus Circus, so I guess this shirt spoke to me and my trailer trash roots. I've logged hundreds of miles in this thing; it's beat to shit but has become my favorite. The graphic is rad, the fit is insane, and the fabric is super thin (everything you'd want in a good running t-shirt).
LOCATION: Sydney, Australia
T-SHIRT: ‘Those Cowboys Aint Got Shit On Me’ (brand unknown)
I can't remember when or how this t-shirt entered my life, but I do know that my life has significant improved since its arrival. I regularly wear it on first dates, job interviews, friend’s children's birthday parties, funerals, and, most often, running. It has never let me down. Each time I wear it, I become charged with a confidence that would reduce Arnold Schwarzenegger to Steve Carell. Charlemagne had his crown, Maximus Decimus Meridius had his breast plate, Superman his cape, Kipchoge has Aphafly 2's, and I have this shirt.
LOCATION: Westminster, CA
T-SHIRT: 1994 Violent Femmes Tour shirt
This t-shirt was originally my brother’s. His favorite Violent Femmes song was ‘American Music’. We used to play the Femmes a lot when we would go driving around together. It’s now one of my go-to songs/bands to listen to when I’m running. I ran my first marathon in this shirt, cut the sleeves off shortly after to get a breezier fit, and it’s still one of my go-to running shirts!
LOCATION: Berlin, Germany
T-SHIRT: Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions shirt from approx. 2009
Normally I cut the sleeves off my running shirts, but this one flowed so nicely that I never felt I needed to. I don’t remember buying the shirt; it was lost in my closet for years. When I found it again, I had just made a playlist for a long run and the shirt went well with the music. I like to create a scenario in which all parts connect: Music, route, and aesthetics. Ever since, the playlist and the shirt have become my go-to for long, hard, and slow sessions in the mountains. I exclusively wear the shirt for that, and I hope it’s going to last for some more years to come.
LOCATION: Sydney, Australia
T-SHIRT: Las Vegas Treasure Island Casino skull pile replica shirt
I got really obsessed with Three 6 Mafia for a while, and after finding the skull pile Supreme bag, I needed Juicy’s skull pile shirt to make the ultimate declaration of insanity outfit. I found this bootleg casino version in a second-hand store in Japan. I was never bold enough to wear the bag and shirt together, but the shirt has been worn on many runs. I like to think that those who know—know. But honestly, I don’t think anyone does, so it’s just me running my runs in this relatively mental shirt.
LOCATION: Reykjavik, Iceland
T-SHIRT: Canal Street 'Fuck You You Fuckin' Fuck' t-shirt
I bought this t-shirt on Canal Street, NYC back in 2007. I never planned on wearing it outside because it's so offensive. I just wore it to bed. When I started running, I initially ran in any old t-shirt, but when noticed that this one was so light and soft, I began turning it inside out and running in it. After a couple of years of intensive wear, the fabric became thinner and people on the street started to notice it was an inside-out t-shirt with the F-word on it three times. I started getting looks. Mostly from parents and the elderly. I have since retired the t-shirt, but it will always be my favorite for running.
AGE: Old enough
LOCATION: Brighton, UK
T-SHIRT: Sonic Youth 'Goo'
I got this t-shirt in the early/mid 90s, probably from the sale bin at the local Virgin Megastore. Somehow it didn’t get lost or thrown away, unlike most of my other teenage band shirts that would be worth a fortune on eBay now. It’s a pretty iconic design that was worn by Nirvana in some press shots. Over the years, it has become paper thin and filled with holes, but that makes it super comfy for running and hiking in. Here are some Sonic Youth songs I'd recommend for your running playlist: ‘Dirty Boots’, ‘100%’, ‘Silver Rocket’, ‘Death Valley 69’.
LOCATION: New York, New York
T-SHIRT: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 'Your Funeral... My Trial'
I found this t-shirt at a flea market in the East 60s about five years ago. It cost $7, but it’s definitely worth a lot more. It doesn’t have any tags or anything, so I can’t tell how old it is, but I’m guessing it was printed in the 90s. I’ve never been a huge Nick Cave fan beyond his greatest hits, but I love this t-shirt because it’s super-light and thin, which is great for running, and it’s 100% cotton, so it feels really nice. Also, it has the words ‘Your Funeral... My Trial’ printed on the back, which is good for psyching other runners out when I pass them (which doesn’t happen very often, sadly).
LOCATION: Tokyo, Japan
T-SHIRT: 2001 Slayer ‘Angel Of Death’ Bootleg
I bought this t-shirt sometime between my 2008 ‘Return to Slayer’ phase and my 2009 ‘I Ride Harley’s Now’ phase. It was the perfect crossover accoutrement. The ‘Return to Slayer’ came about as a reaction to the stool-softening billboard charts of the era. I needed to feel some pure, uncut aggression pulse through my veins, so I revisited their seminal 1986 album Reign In Blood. The ‘I Ride Harley’s Now’ phase came off the back of that, where I thought it wasn’t tough enough to go fast in your headphones, you had to also risk your life aboard a two wheeled death machine. It was fun, though, being loud and going fast. I thought I was cool. Now the shirt is soft and lightweight and gently caresses me on my 6AM runs. It’s got just enough aggression to keep the bogeyman away, while also saying, ‘I’m not afraid to die on this run.’
LOCATION: Brooklyn, New York
T-SHIRT: Vintage Sinatra joke t-shirt
I found this t-shirt in the back of my philosopher Grandfather's closet around ten years ago. One of his students gave it to him many years before that and he definitely never wore it. I researched the history of the text and found a ton of different bootlegs with slight variations on the theme. The idea originated as a kind of 'call and response' toilet graffiti, with multiple contributors adding one line at a time, then it continued to spread, evolving and mutating through replication, often with incorrect quotations and attributions, but always ending with the Sinatra line, Do Be Do Be Do. These days I'm trying to take life a little less seriously and focus more on the journey or experience, so it's nice to change into this stupid slogan and sweat a lot. The old cotton holds so much sweat that I'm really reminded of my 'being' and 'doing' when I'm running in it.
LOCATION: Madrid, Spain
T-SHIRT: 1988 Official Guns N’ Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’ t-shirt
I was given this t-shirty by my wife not long after we started going out, about 14 or 15 years ago. I love it because this was one of the first albums I was into as a kid, but it’s also rad because even if you don’t like G N’ R, it’s got everything a good tee needs: a skull, arrows, some flames, and the obligatory guns and roses. The font is all-time. I wore it a lot when I was working in bars, then it sort of sunk to the bottom of my drawer, until recently. To be honest, I don’t run in it a lot because, despite the luxurious texture of the ageing cotton, I’m afraid I’ll rip it to pieces when I take it off.
LOCATION: Lviv, Ukraine
T-SHIRT: Nightwish ‘Imaginaerum’ 2011 t-shirt
Back in 2012, when I was 14 years old and deep in my emo-era, I snagged this tee at a flea market. There at the stall of a bearded biker dude flipping second-hand stuff, I spotted this tee with the blue print. I didn't even know the band at the time, I just really loved the color blue, and I kinda wanted to be a part of the community—you know, teenagers. Later on, I googled Nightwish and got totally hooked on their music. Now, after 11 years, I'm out there with our running crew Chumaky Way and, thanks to my boyfriend, I am deeply enchanted with running and the vibe that surrounds it. This t-shirt is one of my absolute faves, and kind of a lucky one because it brought me to this mini interview—ha-ha!
LOCATION: Paris, France
T-SHIRT: 1986 Overkill 'Feel the Fire' Tour t-shirt
In my mid-20s, I was obsessed with thrash metal and would never leave my house without Death Angel, Whiplash, Vio-Lence Détente, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, or Overkill in my headphones. When I came across this muscle tee from Overkill's inaugural tour in a vintage store, it was clearly calling my name: Feel the Fire is, to me, an East Coast thrash masterpiece, and this shirt proudly showcases a big '1986' on the back, which is also my year of birth.
When I started running around that same period, I wasn't in tune with the whole performance look, and I felt way better wearing my cotton tees. Needless to say, this one quickly became my favorite vintage band running tee!