A confession: I didn’t start watching The Sopranos for the “right” reason. Not because of its revolutionary impact on television, or for its premise of a mob boss going to therapy, but because of an Instagram account dedicated to AJ Soprano’s extensive nu-metal T-shirt collection.
I was a teenage greebo when the series aired in the early-2000s, and there are more similarities between me and AJ than I want this Reddit thread calling his character “annoying” to know about.
Much like the enduring style of his mob boss father, AJ’s nu-metal wardrobe of Slipknot tees and Marilyn Manson long-sleeves has become hot fashion property. Original band tees like his, which once cost a few quid, are being sold on as “vintage” as part of the 2000s fashion revival trend.
But how much, exactly, are AJ Soprano’s fits worth today?
I spoke to Matt Sloane, who founded vintage band T-shirt store Teejerker, to help me understand how much AJ’s iconic wardrobe would be worth today.
Marilyn Manson, 1997
VICE: Here’s a Marilyn Manson tee featuring a still from “The Beautiful People” music video. In peak condition, how would you price this?
Matt: I would price it at £150, but you could probably get up to £250, based on how well it’s worn. Manson stuff is particularly hype at the minute because Lil Uzi Vert is like his biggest fan, so all these kids who wanna associate themselves with that Soundcloud rap will buy this T-shirt if it’s nicely worn, having never listened to Marilyn Manson. They’d pay like £350 for it, because they’d spend more than that on, like, Yeezy drip, and they’re more than happy to buy that.
Are there many of them around?
Marilyn Manson was huge at the time, so it’s not that rare. It’s one of those ones when it’s actually not very rare at all, there’s just a lot of demand for it. Same with Nirvana shirts, which are still a grand when there are tens of thousands of them worldwide.
I had a look on eBay before we spoke and saw a long-sleeve Marilyn Manson tee going for over two grand. Would they be able to even sell that?
No, people put such silly prices, and then it just sits there. If someone puts something up for that price when it’s worth four or five hundred, often when it’s there under Buy It Now or Best Offer and you can offer a wildly different price, they’ll accept anyway. The eBay market skews the process completely. Like, what are you going to even do with a tee you’ve paid two grand for? That’s a lot of money.
Do you think the Marilyn Manson tees will ever come down in price?
Yeah, they’ve got to. What I price it at is the non-hype price, AKA the price it will always be.
Machine Head hoodie and Fear Factory beanie, mid-90s
Second on the menu is this clashing combo of a Machine Head hoodie and Fear Factory beanie. Are hoodies and hats harder to sell?
It’s the same, really. The person who is buying it is buying it for the band. The hoodies and hats are rarer, for sure, but there’s also less demand. But for people that have an extensive tee collection already, it’s a logical next step.
What do you think price-wise?
They’re not bands I really like or care about. In my opinion they’re second-tier Roadrunner-type bands. Regardless, this is late-90s stuff, so that hoodie would be close to £100 and the beanie is £40 max, really. Fear Factory is a weird one – they’ve got quite a lot of albums that aren’t rated very highly. I think Demanufacture is the one that people really dig. One of their designs has a massive back piece that says Fuck It All, but this seems a little bit more average.
The dragon motif on the Machine Head hoodie is quite popular now – do you think that would make a difference?
Potentially. Not for fans, but I do think if that’s your bag and you’re trying to tap into the “on-trendness” of music merch and dragons, then sure.
Is wearing more than one band at a time overkill?
Nah, it’s quite funny. I don’t think there’s such a thing as overkill. I quite like the clash and the irony of things not working, and the irony of wearing silly stuff too. I’ve been looking for an Aqua T-shirt for about three years, so I’m all about mixing genres.
Slipknot actually just re-released this windbreaker in a different colour.
It’s pretty rare, this one.
Would the new ones affect the price of the original at all?
I don’t think so – more people will become aware that the windbreaker is a reference piece to an older design. With that in mind, it’s about the same price. It’s pretty rare, and I’ve never had it. I know a lot of people looking for it. It’s between £200 and £250, I’d say. There’s a black version as well, which I’ve got, which has the barcode on the front and the back, but this maroon one is good. A lot of people would be really excited to find that.
Yeah, I would be. In the era when The Sopranos came out, more bands had windbreakers as merch, but they’re not as popular now. Do you know why that is?
It was part of the uniform: the Dickies, State skate shoes, windbreaker, Deftones kind of look. Pretty much all these windbreakers would’ve been printed by the same company, which is Blue Grape merchandising. A lot of the band windbreakers you see are the same windbreaker itself, they’ve just changed up the print. There are still windbreakers made, but think how big metal and nu-metal was at the time globally, compared to where it is now.
Okay, so this 1994 Pantera Far Beyond Driven tour tee is one I’ve wanted forever, but it’s always way out of my budget. How much do you think it’d be priced at?
That one’s pretty good, but Phil Anselmo is a bit of a racist, isn’t he? [Anselmo made a white power salute in 2016, which he later apologised for.] Any mark against anyone in a band’s name is going to affect the merch, and people like myself don’t sell them, so because we don’t accept it it’s determined entirely by eBay prices.
So would this then be priced at zero?
Well, no – it’s still worth £120, but I wouldn’t sell it.
Are other drug-related motifs quite sought after?
There’s a real gimmick to it: you can sell a weed leaf shirt that’s not even related to any band for quite a lot of money. Paraphernalia culturally is the ultimate worldwide taboo that everyone’s interested in, but isn’t allowed to be, do you know what I mean? There are so many sick weed T-shirts out there.
Here’s another Slipknot tee. I think it’s year 2000?
Looks like an Iowa 2001 long-sleeve maybe or a sweatshirt.
How much do you think it would be?
As a long-sleeve, maybe close to £200, or just above £150, I’d say.
Do long-sleeves generally go for more?
They’re rarer. For this specific tee, I’d say there were ten T-shirts for every long-sleeve. It would be at least double, whereas some of the other ones would be maybe 10 to 20 percent more.
That makes sense. Because Slipknot are so big there are loads of reprints. How would you spot a legit one?
The T-shirt that it’s printed on is the giveaway. Things to look for are the copyright, including whether the tag is from the right era and how the shirt itself is constructed. It’s about the neckline and stitches, and it’s a lot to go into and I’m not sure if anyone gives a shit.
Coal Chamber, 1997
This is a simple Coal Chamber logo on a hoodie. They aren’t as big as the other bands, but would that make them more sought after because they’re a little niche?
No, not for Coal Chamber. They’re niche, but there’s a reason: it’s because they’re a bit shit. However, there are bands where they’re more niche but their merch would be a grand because of what they contributed culturally and musically – but Coal Chamber aren’t one of those bands.
What’s the price?
You could get £50 for it, but I’ve never seen a Coal Chamber piece of merch. A band being niche doesn’t correlate to price. They need to have done something valuable within the genre.
Sorry, Coal Chamber. And thanks, Matt!