Guns N Roses Clothing, Is It Really Vintage?

Guns N' Roses Clothing

Is It Really Vintage?

I've noticed that sellers are abusing the word "vintage" in relation to Guns N' Roses concert T-shirts and other clothing.  Vintage means that an item is at least 10-20 years old, not that it originally appeared on the market 10-20 years ago.  Almost every "vintage" t-shirt or clothing item I purchased on Ebay was brand new and modern.  It was not 10-20 years old.  It was therefore not vintage and not worth what I had to pay for it.

Before I move on, I'd like to inject something here concerning the difference between concert tees, logo tees, album tees, and individual tees.  Concert tees almost always have tour dates on them.  If they do not have tour dates, the tour will be announced on the shirt.  Just because you purchase a t-shirt at a venue, that does not mean it's a tour shirt.  Bands sell their logo, album, and individual shirts at venues along side the tour shirts so fans often become confused.  I have separated all of Guns N' Roses' t-shirts into four categories for this guide series.  I have even added tour clothing that was never released to the general public. Tour shirts are only available during the tour and discontinued at the tour's end.  That's what makes them so collectible.  Logo, album, and individual shirts, on the other hand, continue to be marketed and even bootlegged for as long as the band exists.  Then there are the re-issues to contend with.

I'm sure that some fans will argue with me about this categorization, but I attended the live shows and remember most of what was sold at the venues.  Now every time I think I have finished this series, I see a new listing for a t-shirt I never saw when it was supposedly released.  I've been pulling my hair out trying to keep this series updated while noting the bootlegs versus the real shirts.  That's no easy task.  I've gotten emails from people who purchased bootleg shirts on Ebay that fell apart or shrunk in the washer.  Thanks for the heads up to all of you who do this.  I own a Skid Row bootleg shirt that I purchased in the parking lot after a show back in '92.  It is paper thin with a sewn up hole and more holes where it was screen printed.  It was in that condition when I bought it.  It would definitely fall apart if I ever washed it, but, it's so rare that I wouldn't part with it for all the gold in the world.  Bootleg shirts are just as collectible as those that are officially licensed.  It's also better to own a bootleg shirt than not own one at all if you can't obtain the real thing.  So to all the t-shirt bootleggers out there, do us all a favor and use good quality medium to heavy weight pre-shrunk cotton for your shirts and you probably won't get any complaints from collectors--unless they're really forgiving like me.

The first promo shirt was commissioned in 1986 before they were signed to Geffen Records.  It was an attempt by the band to make some extra money while promoting themselves.  At the Roxy club gig on January 18, 1986, Slash told the crowd to buy their shirts.  It is the most rare GNR shirt in existence and I have not yet been able to find it.  The first concert tee issued by Guns N' Roses commemorated their opening tours for The Cult, Faster Pussycat, Motley Crue, and Alice Cooper in 1987.  The Rape Scene was used for both 1987 and 1988 tours, though it is most often advertised as only being used in 1987.  Contrary to popular belief, the shirt was not banned until 1989 when the media and feminist groups discovered the artwork and complained about it.  What I have found most perplexing is the manufacturer labels.  I happened upon an Ebay listing for a Rape Scene shirt making the claim that, "it was the only authentic listing and all others are fakes and reproductions that are being fraudulently listed as originals.  True 1987 originals will have a Handtex label."  I was intrigued by the claim and the label.

The Handtex label is the most elusive.   I searched all over the Internet and the earliest mention of the company was found on the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum website.  "Myrtle Bowers, a young African American woman, traveled to Guatemala in the late 1940s where she purchased a dress made by Handtex Fabrics (1947-1950).  During World War II, the hands across the border policy had popularized Mexican, Central American, and South American products in the United States."  This was the very beginning of what we refer to now as globalization.  Other searches resulted in a Handtex company established in Haryana, India in 2002 and another established in Suzhou City, China in 2003.  A word of caution: Any date can be silk screened.  PhotoEZ makes it easy to bootleg vintage shirts and sell them as originals.  If a bootlegger doesn't know any better, the date will be wrong.  You can purchase a shirt that was made yesterday then run over it with a car and wash it several times to make it look vintage.  Also, a lot of clothing manufacturers own sweatshops in third world countries where they sew on labels declaring "Made in U.S.A."  Remember the Kathie Lee Gifford story?  She was caught sweat shopping.  I'm not just making blind accusations here; try it yourself.  Do your homework and you won't get ripped off.  That's why I've written this series of guides, and all the others.


The first European tour shirt was marketed by Supa Tees.

They then switched to the Spring Ford Knitting Company.  Minus the first European tour shirt, a vintage Guns N' Roses 1987 and 1988 t-shirt will read, " + year Guns N Roses," beneath the artwork on the left.  The Stoned in LA shirts from 1989 were marketed by Hugger.


Air Waves, Inc, a company that manufactures iron-on heat transfer tees, released a bootleg t-shirt in 1989.  However, the shirt was deleted from their catalog and is no longer available.  That makes it a rare collector's item.

In 1991, they switched to Brockum.  A vintage Guns N' Roses concert t-shirt from 1991-1993 will read, " + year Guns 'N' Roses Under License To Brockum," beneath the artwork on the left.


Many of the original t-shirts were re-issued in 2004 by Bravado International and read, " 2004 Guns N' Roses."  This one is the Use Your Illusion shirt originally issued in 1991.  I had to brighten the letters to make them visible.


You may also have seen "vintage" shorts being sold that look like the images below:

The images make them appear old, worn, and faded with age which lends credibility to the use of the term "vintage" in the item description.  Make no mistake.  These shorts are brand new.  I purchased them and they came with the following tag:
The writing reads, " 2005 Guns n' Roses Another Bravado Brand".  These shorts were originally marketed in the late '80s, and reissued by license to Bravado International, a UK merchandising company.

Pay close attention to the middle "N" in GUNS N ROSES.  Shirts issued from 1987-1989 have no apostrophe.  Those issued in 1991 have two apostrophes, one on either side of the N.  Shirts issued in 1993 and those re-issued in 2004 have one apostrophe after the N.  Other clothing re-issued in 2005 may have a lower case "n" with one apostrophe following.  This is where bootleggers are most likely to make their mistake, aside from the copyright date.

As of 2006, I am seeing new and re-issued merchandise marketed by Masons in England.

To sum it up, I'm not the least bit dissatisfied with the GNR clothing I have purchased on Ebay with the exception that I had to pay more than what the items were worth.  I would certainly rather wear new clothing than that previously worn by someone else, unless the item is so rare that I cannot obtain it otherwise.