About 7 years ago, I wrote a surprisingly contentious little piece here about people buying CBGB shirts that weren’t actually procured at the venue in question (which, by that point, had already been closed for a few years, gutted and turned into John Varvatos' bespoke haberdashery of ludicrous revisionism). Honestly speaking, I ultimately don’t see anything wrong with folks buying CBGB shirts despite not having purchased them there. By this stage of the proceedings, the iconography of CBGB is shorthand for a whole swathe of popular culture. And as much as I’m easily riled by folks wearing band t-shirts who aren’t actually fans (let alone familiar) with the bands they’re espousing, CBGB could conceivably mean different things to different people. Sure, the Dead Boys and the Cro-Mags played there, but so did Binky Philips and Phoebe Legere. Its name may specifically connote “punk” and “underground,” but — as a venue — it played host to a deceptively wide array of artists (in the same way that Wetlands Preserve in TriBeCa didn’t just play host to hippie jam bands). It’s not simply ‘one thing’ (i.e. like a band t-shirt). In any case, the bands, the music, the culture and that sensibility spawned by the place arguably continue — for better or worse — to inform popular culture. As such, why not celebrate the place with a t-shirt … even if you never got to go?
Shocking as it may sound, that part doesn’t bother me. No, what bothers me is bullshit like this.
I’ve already gone on record a few times about my disdain for John Varvatos’ exclusive appropriation of CBGB’s legacy (most specifically here). When the venue was forced to close after a heated dispute with the building’s owner, Varvatos seized the opportunity to open up shop in the club’s footprint. But his attempts to pay homage to his boutique’s former occupant is brazenly undermined and rendered entirely moot by the fatuously overstated avarice of his operation. CBGB had never been about glitz and glamor. As a former skid row biker bar on the Bowery, it blossomed into a hotbed of creative opportunity because it wasn’t exclusive. It may have later cultivated its own brand of elitism (and you’d be fooling yourselves to think otherwise), but it was assuredly never fancy. The folks who came to lose teeth at the hardcore matinees, get unsolicitedly slapped by James Chance, berated by Lydia Lunch or pants-soakingly deafened at SWANS gigs didn’t always feel a need to dress to the nines. Maybe they did at certain other venues, but CBGB just wasn’t that place.
Here’s the thing, though. Whether you’re a preciously pedantic punk-rock-purist or you’re just a schlub who thinks a CBGB shirt would look cool, THERE IS NO REASON ON THIS EARTH OR ANY OTHER TO PAY $100.00 FOR IT.
In all seriousness, if you spend $100 on a t-shirt, you’re a complete idiot — regardless of what’s on it.
Don’t even get me started on the accompanying text…
If there's one thing the John Varvatos brand is known for, it's rocking out. We're keeping this theme alive and well with our newest set of rock-inspired tees. Wear them with Converse to see your favorite band, or pair them with a blazer and dark-wash jeans for a JV-approved office look.
I mean, sweet jeezy creezy, … where does one even begin?
Listen, if you really want a CBGB shirt, you can invariably skip down to your local shopping mall or visit one of literally thousands of places online and get yourself one. But if you spend more than twenty bucks on it — unless, of course, the garment in question happened to be fashioned out of the Shroud of Turin — you’re getting fucking ripped off. Hell even twenty bucks is pretty steep, when ya think about it.