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7 Labels Making Homemade T-Shirts Look Cooler Than Ever

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Samuel Hine in a Come Tees T-shirt / Getty Images

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October 11, 2018

To some, a T-shirt is just the easiest, most nothing-to-see-here way to cover the upper half of your body so you can go out into the world and do your thing. To others, T-shirts are deeply personal; they’re artifacts from an important time in your life, or a way to show your appreciation for a cultural moment, figure or community you connect with.

 

These seven small but growing labels make T-shirts for the latter group, often by hand, replacing logos with arty designs and selling in small batches through independent channels. If you take your T-shirts seriously, or if you’ve ever had a dream of expressing your own creativity through the medium, read on below. (Follow these guys on Instagram while you’re at it so you can keep up with restocks, collabs and just generally live vicariously through them—we know we are.)

Come Tees

 

LA-based artist Sonya Sombreuil makes her visually arresting and downright wild T-shirts by hand in small batches, which means they don’t come cheap or stay in stock for long. “The reason I started making T-shirts was because I felt really sequestered in my painting practice,” she told GQ’s Samuel Hine recently. Hine is also the one wearing a Come Tees shirt (above). Because once you learn about Sombreuil’s work, it’s impossible not to be a fan.

Machine

 

If you’re a feminist, LGBTQ supporter, women’s wrestling fan, or just appreciate a really dope bootleg, behold Machine’s handmade T-shirts, bike shorts and other athletic-minded merch. The label’s perfectly worn in, vibrant and downright badass “Lezbos” T-shirts, which look a bit like those iconic NYC “We are happy to serve you” cups, sell out fast, so follow Machine on Instagram for restock updates.

Ignored Prayers

 

Former creative director of HUF, Scott Tepper, launched Ignored Prayers as a website/zine/no-rules creative project back in 2008, only deciding to turn it into a clothing line in 2016 when a couple of T-shirts they made for friends took off. “We don’t really give a shit,” Tepper told Complex last year, “We just kind of make… what we want. We aren’t really trying to cash out on it. And I think that resonates.”

Online Ceramics

 

Online Ceramics founders Elijah Funk and Alix Ross somehow make Grateful Dead and punk-era T-shirts look even trippier than the originals, hand-drawing illustrations and playing with graphics in dizzying ways. John Mayer helped the pair reach a wider audience of Deadheads and hypebeasts early on, when he collaborated with the brand on merch for one of his Dead & Company tours.

StrangewaysNYC

 

If you’re a vintage concert T-shirt person, or a Morrissey or Smiths fan, you’ll appreciate Sean Samuelson’s rare, deadstock, worn-for-a-decade T-shirts, which feature mashups of visuals from Moz’s various tours and albums. The DIY designs aren’t all technically legal, which only makes copping a StrangewaysNYC T-shirt that much more fun.

Union Los Angeles

 

Chris Gibbs’s cult-loved LA store, Union, specializes in small and emerging labels from all over the world. Some of the inventory is high-concept, but most of it is the stuff you want to wear every day—like really, really good T-shirts (including those by Online Ceramics and Ignored Prayers). Needless to say, when Gibbs launched an in-house line in 2017, he knocked it out of the park.

Brain Dead

 

Like Ignored Prayers, clothing is only one facet of Ed Davis and Kyle Ng’s brand, Brain Dead. With threads in music, skateboarding and comics, Brain Dead can be thought of more as a collective than a collection. “Streetwear used to represent something; nowadays, a lot of it is just meaningless fashion that has no context or real connection to culture,” Ng told Hypebeast in 2016. Shots fired.