T-shirts are the most underrated medium for art, providing a platform for the display of creativity through both language and form. These aptly named cotton, shoulder-chest huggers are the most democratic pieces of fashion. Quintessentially American, T-shirts embody a spirit of individuality through self-expression. They share a special, symbiotic relationship to another homegrown American art-form, rock-and-roll. T-shirts are memorabilia, capturing memories of a time and place, through music.
The Churchill’s T-Shirt Swap Meet, which took place last Sunday August 11, 2013, was an art gallery event where Miami’s music legends placed all of their old, unwanted t-shirts on display at the pub, inviting people to ponder the personal history behind their shirt. Among these legends were Frank “The Rat Bastard” Falestra, “Little” Nicky Bowe, Steven Toth, Mr. Entertainment, and DJ Le Spam.
Local t-shirt designers such as NiC FiT Vintage and Iron Forge Press also displayed their pieces in a street market-style atmosphere. It was the first pop-up shop event of its kind at the 34-year-old “beloved shit-hole.” For the occasion, the folks over at Shirt Series designed a limited edition t-shirt for the pub depicting a silhouetted gray image along with the said line. It was sold for $5 a pop.
The Rat Bastard has been a presence in the local scene for almost two decades. Sammy Hagar resembling with curly blond tresses, wearing dark shades indoors like a real rock-star, Frank Falestra, also known as Rat, was selling some of his old rags for $2. I got a chance to see his kind, light green eyes for a moment as he, shade-less, asked me to take any of his shirts. Happily, I got a glittery “Temple of Bon Matin” t-shirt along with an introduction to the obscure “noise” genre band. In this way, t-shirts serve as one of the best promotional materials, leading observers to take interest in a band or business through catchy designs.
Beatriz Monteavaro from local heavy metal “noise” group Holly Hunt was also selling her old rags, displaying memories and experience. Out of the black, grey, and white heavy metal shirts that made up her table, one particular shirt stood out from the rest. On a green background was written Ice Cube’s lyrics, “I didn’t even have to use my a.k, today was a good day.” I asked Beatriz about the shirt. She said that someone she didn’t like anymore had given it to her. So, getting rid of it meant getting rid of the memory as well. She also said she didn’t mind parting ways with the shirts because they were ones that she didn’t want anymore.