The Beginner’s Guide to Vintage Metal T-Shirts


Metallica has been making some really terrible music the last few years, but they’re not the most famous metal band of all time for no reason. The group is very much from the underground, as evidenced by this printed T-shirt for a joint tour with the legends of metal, Venom. “I chose this shirt as an example of [one] that really captures a place and time, ”Cantwell says,“ to show all the history you can convey with a t-shirt. It’s just a really interesting convergence of metal history that sums up a really, really important little period of time: the passing of the British torch in the early British 80s. [bands] to struggle. It’s almost like you can literally see it happening on this shirt.

Courtesy of Harry Cantwell
Courtesy of Harry Cantwell

Nordic metal bootleg

Much like with the Dead, bootleg tees are where things get weird in the metal. This shirt, an early ’90s boot that takes inspiration from a black metal compliation, has a sort of wobbly charm and amateurish authenticity. “From a design point of view, I think it’s so crazy. He’s totally got that rap t-shirt look, ”Cantwell says. “It’s not like what these bands would choose their shirts to look like. And I think for this reason he has a very special place in my heart. Bootlegs often mean a happy accident, and Cantwell gloats over the one decidedly evil mistake in this shirt. “A great detail about this is on the back, the Marduk logo is upside down, so the upside down cross is turned right side up.

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Courtesy of Harry Cantwell
Courtesy of Harry Cantwell

Killer

You can’t go wrong with Slayer. They are the most legendary metal band of all time, and they have a perfect logo. This shirt is interchangeable with hundreds of others, all equally iconic, but Cantwell loves this one for its simplicity. “Slayer has a bunch of really nice shirts from this period. This period for me [the mid ’80s, when they released the classic album], Reign in blood the blood is so sharp as a razor. There is no fat in there, there is nothing superfluous on it, ”he says. “It’s just 30 minutes of fast, tight, intense and evil metal and that’s what I feel with the jersey.”

Courtesy of Harry Cantwell

St. Vitus

“Saint Vitus was poor and fucked up all the time, playing that slow, depressed, foggy metal in a time when no one cared,” Cantwell says. “I really feel like this shirt captures their vibe. There is this real road fatigue, a kind of melancholy quality. And from a shirt collector’s perspective, there are groups that, at least at the time, had very few merchandise. Saint Vitus probably didn’t have the money to make merch and there probably wasn’t a ton of demand. The group has gained cult status in recent years and, understandably, so have their incredibly rare products.

Courtesy of Harry Cantwell
Courtesy of Harry Cantwell

Type O negative

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Another band whose music is rather theatrical, Type O Negative, was the vehicle of the late Brooklyn Parks Department employee, Peter Steele. (Despite his history of aggression, Steele maintains a strong fandom in death.) That specificity, Cantwell says, plays out in merch. “Type O Negative is such a strange and idiosyncratic band. It is clearly a person’s vision. And if you describe them to someone, “It’s like Black Sabbath but more gothic, but it also sounds a bit like the Beatles sometimes, and there’s some New York hardcore in there too,” I don’t think so. not that would make a lot of sense. This particular design is the one that really brings me back to my 13th birthday and discovering them for the first time. This shirt, he explains, captures that weirdness. “From a design point of view, this is the only time they have used this logo to my knowledge. I really like this kind of trippy, mossy cemetery. They usually have a sort of totalitarian approach to the fonts, with big capital letters, but I like that in this shirt they really leaned into the spooky, gothic. Addams Family thing.”

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