internet culture

An Interview With The Shirts That Go Hard Guy

What are tweets, or, memes for that matter, if not slogans for future tees? Or what are slogan tees if not physical manifestations of memes? 
Arielle Richards
Melbourne, AU
​Arielle Richards / Shirts That Go Hard /  yuanyuan yan​ via Getty
Arielle Richards / Shirts That Go Hard
yuanyuan yan via Getty

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you would have come across Instagram’s Good Shirts, or Twitter’s Shirts That Go Hard

Even if you’ve never thought about either of those accounts, you would have seen the Shirts. They are ubiquitous and they are multiplying. They are as inescapable as they are magnetic; borne of a vastly expanding wormhole that is the Shirts That Go Hard and Good Shirts dichotomy.


It’s hard to ignore the Shirts. Even as you try to escape, their impossible magnitude and uncanny magnificence lures you back in. Which came first, the meme or the slogan shirt? What are tweets, or, memes for that matter, if not slogans for future tees? Or what are slogan tees if not physical manifestations of memes? 

Where did all this start? Where do the shirts come from? Who is making them? Where can we find them? What is going on?

Many questions. So, we thought we would simply ask the Good Shirts/Shirts That Go Hard guy.

VICE: First, why shirts?

The Guy: I have always loved graphic tees, but I didn’t know that there existed such a vast world of T-shirt creators online before I started the page. Clever, silly, beautiful, inspiring – there are so many different kinds of shirts being made today. 

Creating T-shirts is an art-form that is constantly being pushed forward, diagonally, and turned upside down by the work of independent artists. T-shirts are canvases that walk, wave, and interact with the world in a way that most other artwork can’t from the confines of a museum. There’s also a fundamental unseriousness to them, because they’re not urgently attempting to sell us something. Billboards eventually bore us when we realise they’re just trying to catch our eyes to sell us chicken. Car commercials love to tell dramatic stories, then abruptly pivot to hawking their latest model. A T-shirt is, more or less, just a T-shirt. It’s for sale, somewhere. It might even have a little logo on it.  But mainly it’s just art, designed to be worn out. 


There’s also the dynamic between the wearer and the shirt that adds another dimension of provocation (who was the first person to write “my eyes are up here?” on a tee?). I think what I like most about shirts is their capacity to surprise, and to cause small moments of joy. Hence why so many people have felt the need to take out their phones and send me pictures of the shirts they see in the wild.

Wow. Where do you find the shirts?

I began my IG page, which started as @Good_Vietnam_shirts, when I was living in Vietnam, and started photographing all the strange, mistranslated, a-contextual shirts I saw being worn and sold in stores. As the page grew the audience began to submit their own sightings. We get hundreds of submissions every day.

Eventually, as more people began to submit pictures of shirts from places other than Vietnam, the content of the account changed, from an archive of mistranslated tee-shirts or shirts found in Vietnam to all-around fun shirts. So we changed our name to @Goodshirts

Do you still find shirts?

I used to find all of them! When I was living in Vietnam, I would spend hours at clothing shops just sifting through the racks, looking for oddities. When I moved back to the US, I began to thrift, but my followers were far better than I was at it, and I had more than enough submissions to supply the account. 


I also make shirts! I consider myself an artist and running the account provides a constant stream of inspiration, and brain worms. I attribute my creativity to both.

What were the circumstances surrounding the origin of "shirts that go hard" on Twitter?

Only later did I start the @Shirtsthtgohard Twitter account. T-shirt pics are perfectly made to go viral – I believe because of that surprise factor. It’s always eye-catching to see something as normal as a T-shirt be subverted in a silly, raunchy, or profound way. 

Are you anonymous? 

Eh, I’m not anonymous. I’m John. 

Who is the real John?

The real me? I’m just a guy who is grateful to have found a career in something fun and related to art. I’m a guy who likes to create his own artwork, and curate T-shirt artwork so as to bring attention to the awesome people in the T-shirt space and the artful, inventive, and often radical things they produce at the same time.

So shirts are your full time job now?

Yep, shirts are my full-time job.

Is shirting a lucrative industry? 

Selling shirts is lucrative. I think all artists should do it.

You get so many submissions, but not all are posted, so what makes a shirt "go hard", for you? Can you explain it?

Honestly, having seen so many submissions, and having seen what performs well and what doesn’t on the Internet, I have a pretty keen sense for what the Internet will love, and what they will chew up and spit back out furiously. That being said, I still miss the mark.  


Do you think there's a formula for the perfect shirt?

It’s somewhat ineffable what makes a shirt great. It usually has an element of surprise, a shocking twist, text set against a contrary image – but there is no one single formula for a great shirt, just like there is no one single way to crack a joke, or compel them in some way. Sometimes it’s not just the shirt, but the whole of the image: the combination of the shirt and who is wearing it, or the setting in which the picture is taken, or simply the audacity of a person to wear such an “inappropriate garment” in public. 

I'd love if you could share a favourite shirt... or favourites

I can definitely share some shirts that I love!

John's favs #1

John's favs #1

John's favs #2

John's favs #2

John's favs #3
John's favs #4

John's favs #4

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