Category Archives: Deeply distressing


I wouldn’t want anybody spraining a retina trying to decipher the masochistically minuscule red text at the bottom of this absolute head-scratcher, so I’ll transcribe it (sic) for you.


So, putting all the disparate elements of this design together – and feeling like Sherlock Holmes staring at a table laid out with several pieces of apparently incongruous but abstractly connected evidence – I have eventually arrived at the following harrowing conclusions:

This T-shirt fake-commemorates a made-up event that ran, annually, for six years, between 1978 and 1984, before it was presumably banned owing to widespread public outrage. Said event involved “Dare Drivers” barrelling down “26th Street” with a deliberate lack of due care and attention, often resulting in them ploughing into crowds of pedestrians, leaving behind ghoulish piles of twisted metal and eviscerated flesh (as depicted on the spectral illustration behind the main text).

Those killed were then ‘commemorated’ by the following year’s carnage-filled Dare Drive, which generated yet more deaths, which were then commemorated by the following year’s Dare Drive, and so on and so on, until 1984, when the city’s residents finally decided – after six years of sociopathic automotive slaughter – that enough was enough.

Can that be right? Can it? Like the Koran or the Mona Lisa’s smile, this T-shirt is surely open to an almost infinite number of interpretations. Furrow-browed, elbow-patched, coffee-breathed scholars will be poring over this bad boy for decades.

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What’s the thinking behind fake-distressed, erroneously-dated designs such as this? Are they intended to trick onlookers into being impressed that the wearer has stayed loyal to a garment that’s long past its prime? Or are they supposed to indicate that the wearer feels profoundly alienated from contemporary life, and yearns to escape to some long-gone, halcyon era? Or… what?

Whatever the reason, fake distressing is fast becoming the norm for many high-street clothing chains. How long before this practice spreads beyond the world of fashion? How long before new cars come pre-riddled with rust, or new houses have chic rising-damp built into them? Ladies will wear bras that make their tits sag, men will shave bald patches onto their heads, and eventually we’ll all just be lying around in the street, pretending to be dead.

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This is actually part of a set that includes stick-on arm bruises, a hammer to knock your front teeth out with and an apocalyptic crystal-meth habit.

Thanks to Helen Amazing

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You’d think that a T-shirt urging onlookers to “NEVER STOP” would at least encourage persistence with a reasonably well-known activity that suffers from a high drop-out rate: learning the guitar, going to the gym, breaking into acting – that sort of thing.

As pastimes go, however, taking Polaroid photos of poppies while topless in the great outdoors is pretty fucking niche. It’s actually more something you’d advise a person to stop doing.

To be clear: If you find yourself in a field, semi-nude, using antiquated equipment to compulsively capture endless images of flowers strongly associated with war and death, you’ve crossed the line from eccentric hobbyist to window-peering, bin-rummaging, neighbour-worrying fetishist – and don’t let any T-shirt tell you different.

Thanks to Helen Amazing

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1999 is strangely, suspiciously recent for a randomly plonked-on year – tradition usually dictates a more refined vintage, such as 1964, 1951, or even 1884. With that in mind, I’m going to assume that this T-shirt actually dates from 1999, and that it’s been hanging forlornly in this London branch of TK Maxx for over a decade.

The branch manager – let’s call him Geoff – just can’t quite bring himself to consign the T-shirt to the 50p bin. In its own funny way, seeing The Movement swaying there on its hanger has become something of a comfort to him. Whatever Geoff went through – his divorce; his money worries; that bloody kidney stone – he could always rely on The Movement: it was there when he opened the shop in the morning; it was there when he slammed down the shutters at night.

“For Christ’s sake, come on, Geoff,” says the area manager. “Either mark it down to 50p or stick it in the bin. We need that space for new stock!”

But Geoff would never give up on The Movement. “It’ll sell, I just know it will,” he’ll say, his voice as certain as a bow fired from an arrow. “It just needs a bit of extra help, is all. A bit of time. A bit of encouragement in a nurturing environment.”

Sometimes he’ll spot customers eyeing The Movement – perhaps even rubbing its fabric between their fingers. His heart races. He’ll suddenly perceive The Movement as a watery-eyed puppy at a dog pound, desperately hoping for an owner to rescue it from certain execution. Those hopes are always cruelly dashed, however, as the customer is distracted away by a newer, prettier garment, with a less unappealing year emblazoned across it. At those moments, Geoff finds The Movement’s spirited message of “Best Of Luck To U” heartbreakingly poignant and naïve.

One day, of course, Geoff is going to be crossing the shop floor, making the journey from tills to stockroom, and out of the corner of his eye he’s going to notice that The Movement – in all its faded, misshapen, XXL glory – isn’t hanging there any more. It will have finally found the home it had craved for so long. Its absence will feel vast and overwhelming.

His feet welded to the spot, Geoff will be taken aback by the tidal wave of melancholy that crashes down upon him – stirring himself into motion, he’ll probably have to dash into the stockroom lavs to have a quiet little weep. But ultimately, sadness will be replaced by an immense and enduring pride. His little bird grew up, flew the nest – and soared.

Thanks to Will Jack

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This was clearly intended to evoke an air of swooning romance, but with its biohazardy lettering, radiation-blasted flowers and battle-ravaged half-collar, it actually looks like a grim souvenir of a global virus pandemic, worn by an emaciated survivor as they stagger over the rubble, scavenging for dented tins.

“It started with a kiss – that’s all it took for the first recorded case of HF-316 to pass from Patient Zero to a second carrier. And from there, it spread like wildfire: racing across villages, cities, countries, continents, scorching everything in its path, until every street in every land was a hellish carnival of thrashing bodies, coughing up liquefied guts and clawing at rotted-out eye-holes.

“Should mankind ever manage to repopulate this decimated planet, please God, let them find this vest amongst the ruins, that they might heed its chilling warning, handed down from their forefathers, like a harrowing scream in the dark…”

Thanks to Joanna Fuertes-Knight

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I’m not entirely sure I want to experience “the sinking feeling” and possibly “loose it all” under the tutelage of a surfer who’s managed to earn himself the nickname  “Crippled”. I can just picture this Charles Markton lunatic, insisting on having his paraplegic body strapped to a surfboard and paddled out into the ocean, so that he can be tossed savagely around by ferocious wave after ferocious wave, like a flimsy plastic bag at the mercy of a violent gale.

And what, pray tell, does “The Ace” make of all this? Does he applaud his paralysed partner’s uncowed, gung-ho attitude – or does he grimace bitterly at all the wide-eyed adoration it affords him? Johnny’s always had to play second fiddle to Charles: the surfing world might know them as the Crazy Bros, but it was always Charles who won the trophies, Charles who got the girls, Charles who got the glory. Wonderful Charles, perfect Charles. And even now – even as he eats and defecates through tubes, and communicates through winks and twitches – even now, Charles is still the star.

Bide your time, Johnny. Bide your time, my boy. You’ve already engineered one “accident” for Charles – just make sure that the next one finishes the job. Maybe one day you “forget” to strap Charles down to his surfboard properly. Maybe his body slips loose, at the crest of a thundering wave. Maybe he’s smashed below the water’s surface, helpless, terrified, a silent scream roaring behind his paralysed lips. And maybe you feign horror, guilt, and eventually, bereavement – as all the while, maniacal laughter staggers around your mind like a drunken, unhinged whore.

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