It dawned on me a little while ago that I didn’t have an Anarchist t-shirt. Now, most people who know me will say that I am an Anarchist. I’m very vocal about the immorality of aggression and my desire for a society without coercion. I listen to the podcasts. I run an Anarchist blog. Still, can I really say I’m an Anarchist if I don’t have the t-shirt? No, I can’t. So I made one.
Rather than running you step by step through it and overcomplicating the matter, let me just say that the process is really pretty simple. All you’ve got to do is make some kind of stencil, put it where you want it on a black t-shirt, and then spray on some diluted bleach. Make sure you put something inside the shirt so the bleach doesn’t soak through to the back. I use a plastic cutting board. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. I’ve got some thoughts on aesthetics and making it all look better, but that’s all you’ve really got to do.
In doing this project, I discovered that there’s a vast cottage industry of small scale t-shirt manufacturing out there. Consequently, plain, monochromatic t-shirts are cheap and easy to find. Walmart has a whole shelf of them in their craft section for about $5 apiece. I like the ones at Olympia sports. I like the fit better, and they sell for 4 for $20. You might just have one in your bureau. Thrift stores are also a place to look.
For the stencil, I used poster board. The drawback there it that it’s a one use thing. The stuff curls up and deforms when it gets wet. If you were looking for something more durable, perhaps for mass production, Walmart sells sheets of plastic film that you might try. In either case, just draw out your pattern and use an x-acto knife to cut out anything you specifically want to be bleached. Remember, you’re making a reverse image. Whatever you don’t see on the stencil is what you will see on the t-shirt. Meditate on this.
Now, there’s a little bit of art to the spraying. Understand that this will never be a perfect, graphically designed and precision manufactured product. To my eye, it won’t turn out right if you try to achieve that look. This is a hand made item, and it’s best not to hide it. That being the case, you don’t want to spray the bleach evenly. A little thicker in some places while a little thinner in others is fine. And you will want a couple of drips and splatters. You can certainly have too much and make it look ridiculous, but just a few gives you that kind of rough look that I like. And after it’s dry, you’ll want to wash it a few times. Faded and used is what you’re going for.
I might add that tie dye techniques also work here. Just tie your black t-shirt as you would otherwise and dip it in bleach instead of dye. Personally, I’ve never been able to produce one I’m happy with. But I’ve seen good stuff on Google Images.
So, I have a t-shirt that I made that’s unique. I’m spreading the message, turning a few heads, and making some people pause. I’m getting recognition. The coolest was when I was at the mall one day and browsed through Hot Topic. A guy working there stopped what he was doing, pointed to me, and said “Hey, cool t-shirt.” Clearly an expert, he’s a man who knows his t-shirts. On that subject, he’s the guy. You’ve gotta appreciate a commendation like that. I’m saying job well done.