The Rise of the Faux Bootleg T-shirt


Weitz and Pollack started making their own t-shirts on a whim in the early days of their forties, setting up an Instagram page for the sake of seeing what would happen. It started to explode, Pollack says, after Caris Lavert, then of the Brooklyn Nets, wore one of their shirts to a protest and photos of her ensemble toured online. “Basketball players drive fashion culture, and they’re not afraid to sound crazy,” Pollack says. “Their streetwear is broadcast on social media, and we wouldn’t have anything without it.” Grace Court t-shirts have since appeared on Tyrese Maxey, Hamidou Diallo, Terance Mann and Bruce Brown hoops, making their t-shirts one of the most requested in the league.

Jarred Vanderbilt in a bootleg Malcolm tee.

Jordan johnson

DAPS Retro also started out as a lockdown hobby. Australia-based friends Dion Sadiku and Adam Puccio were “just locked in and isolated and bored” last year, Puccio explains. He watched a video on TikTok of someone ironing a photo of Stone Cold Steve Austin on a plain T-shirt, and he figured he was going to give it a try. “We did it more or less as a joke at first, because we were bored. But we let our creativity flow and we got there, and we’re really happy with how it turned out, ”says Sadiku. “He was born out of simplicity, really. It was too easy not to do it.

This experience has spread to a range of ultra-garish styles featuring the faces of rappers like Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, and basketball players like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. They’ve had the most success, however, combining their trashy, over-the-top retro aesthetic with new NBA faces, especially Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball. “Everyone, but especially our demographic, loves LaMelo Ball,” says Puccio. “Seeing it on an old-fashioned T-shirt, with those Hornets colors, it works so well.” There is something irresistibly dissonant about seeing young LaMelo in this very specific aesthetic context, which feels like he belongs so firmly to a particular place and time. The eerie effect is the key to all the appeal of the fake bootleg shirt.


By far the biggest name in the bootleg-tee game right now is Do Not Disturb, the Atlanta-based streetwear brand owned and operated by fashion designer Ferris, whose shirts are a staple in any wardrobe. Young Thug and LeBron James, among many others. other. But Ferris is keen to stress that as a brand, Do Not Disturb has strived to be very socially aware – and their message sets them apart.


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