I was watching Spinal Tap with friends a few months ago and couldn’t help but notice that there were an awful lot of t-shirts on show, and since I had so much fun with the Scott Pilgrim t-shirt list I thought I’d give this one a go. It’s hardly surprising considering that tees are the classic rock n’ roll wardrobe staple, but it’s still fun to see interesting tees being worn by characters in a movie, especially when I imagine that quite a lot of them were created specifically for the movie itself.
In spite of the popularity of the film then and now, there are surprisingly few companies out there which have taken the plunge and recreated shirts from the movie, with most seemingly happy to put “it goes to 11″ on a tee and leave it at that. It’s disappointing, but maybe if this post does well some enterprising freelance designers will put their efforts onto a print-on-demand site like Cafepress, Zazzle, or RedBubble so you can snap them up before they get DMCA takedown requests. If they make them, I’ll post them here, but for now we’ll have to make do with merely enjoying looking at the great t-shirts featured in Spinal Tap. Please note that I was taking screen grabs from the DVD version of the film since I don’t know anyone with the Blu-Ray version, but if this post gets enough attention I will happily order a copy of the Blu-Ray so that we can have some extra detail for the images. Also, I would never claim to be a Spinal Tap authority, I’ve seen the film a few times and really like it, but if I make any errors in this post just let me know and I’ll fix it right up.
This is the first shirt that we see in the film, on the lower right of the image. We never get a good look at the design because the guy has his arms crossed, but I think it’s a fair guess that we’re looking at a snail here, and I get the feeling that the style is reminiscent of a well known comic artist the name of which escapes me at the moment.
Here we see Mick Shrimpton wearing a Poison vest (or tee with the arms cut off, it’s impossible to tell). You would presume that the design was a reference to the band Poison, but with the film being released in 1984 and the band only forming in 1983 (and changing their name to Poison in ’84) that seems unlikely. I can’t find the artwork being related to Poison (the band) either, so perhaps the motivation with this design was that poison causes death and so a band member would wear it.
During an interview scene Nigel Tufnel can be seen wearing one of my favourite shirts from the whole movie, it’s borderline criminal that no one has tried to recreate this skull and bones pattern design (as far as my research can find).
Nigel Tufnel again, this time in a shirt that seems to show a pony/horse and an odd green character. The visual style again reminds me of an artist the name I can’t remember the name of, so hopefully someone can chime in in the comments so I can fill this one in a bit more and whilst I doubt the shirt is still on sale, I might be able to point you in the direction of other work by the artist. This shirt is also worn later during the film in a band practise session (at 32 minutes if you’re really that concerned). *UPDATE* I’ve been informed that this is Gumby & Pokey, two characters who I have somehow not heard of until now!
After what has been a bit of a disappointing run in the opening of this post, I have excellent news, you can actually buy this t-shirt from Norman’s Rare Guitars from the store themselves (so it’s not a knockoff) in the original brown colour, and priced at just $18 your Nigel Tufnel costume won’t be that expensive to put together.
Nigel Tufnel once more with a tight diagonal striped tee (only just, it’s borderline vest territory). I Googled and Googled and can’t find a similar shirt to this, surprising as that may be; horizontal stripes? Sure! Vertical stripes? Easy! Trying to find that middle ground seems to be an untapped market though.
We’re now at the infamous “goes to 11″ scene and I think one of the most famous clothing designs in all of film history. Technically, yes, this is a vest/tank top, but it may have been a modified t-shirt, and most of the options I’ve seen around have it as a t-shirt, presumably because it’s a more popular garment option. Found Item Clothing (a company that specialise in movie t-shirt recreations) produce what I believe to be the best recreation, and sell it as a t-shirt for $22.95.
Bassist Derek Small appears next in a Shrewsbury Town FC away shirt that was worn by players in the 1980/81 season. This makes a lot of sense as Derek’s fictional home town of Nilford-on-Null is in the West Midlands, much like non-fictional Shrewsbury. The original shirt isn’t on sale (as you’d imagine for one of the football league’s smaller clubs), but you can buy a replica from Toffs for £39.99, that looks just about exactly the same except for the lack of Umbro branding. This shirt is also later seen in an airport security scene when Derek has something unexpected in his trousers.
Side note, if Derek is a Shrewsbury fan, how come he’s wearing a West Ham cap in the scene where they go to visit Elvis’ grave and get too much perspective? This glaring plot hole almost ruined my enjoyment of the film.
Derek wears this shirt a couple of times in the film, first during a band practise 32 minutes into the film, and then at 1:05 in the runtime. I’m not sure if it’s intentional (or they just happened to shoot things on the same day and left them in the same clothes), but I like that the characters do re-wear items and they are wearing different items scene to scene as if they’re a host at the Oscars. Every time Derek is seen in this shirt it appears a bit ruffled (it may be a touch too tight) and obscured by his hair, but I’m fairly confident that the text at the top says ‘Jamaica’, but the design within the yellow circle is lost on me.
During the scene in which Derek gets trapped within those egg-like things a roadie comes on stage to attempt to free him. The roadie is wearing a shirt but I can’t really make out what is on the back as he’s only on screen for a couple of seconds. My guess is that it’s a piranha wearing sunglasses, which sounds like something you’d see on a t-shirt in the 80s.
Here we see Derek Smalls wearing a classic black Harley Davidson logo t-shirt. You’d have thought that this is one of the easiest shirts for me to find but in reality there are an awful lot of awful Harley shirts out there. I did eventually find it for $18.99, though the linked shirt does have a back graphic on it (that they don’t show – buyer beware), Derek’s shirt may have had this graphic too but we’ll never know.
When the character of Artie Fufkin (or “Artie, Artie Fufkin” if you prefer) is introduced in a hotel room he’s wearing the a yellow Spinal Tap t-shirt featuring a skull with horns. I haven’t managed to track down any reproductions of it, but there is an original, vintage shirt from 1984 up on eBay for $95, own a piece of Tap history!
We then later see Artie at the in-store record signing wearing another Spinal Tap t-shirt, this time a black tee with the outline of the bands logo. I managed to find a very similar shirt on Amazon for £14.99.
Also during the signing session scene we see Derek Smalls wearing a v-neck fishnet t-shirt. I was convinced that American Apparel had produced something very similar a couple of years back because I can remember the ad, but it’s nowhere to be seen in their ad archive or store. eBay is your friend when it comes to this fishnet shirt.
Just before the hour in the runtime we see Derek Smalls in a t-shit which I feel that again I should know the original of the artwork since I’m sure it’s well known, but Googling and using image searches are coming up with nothing. I’ve got a feeling that it’s Japanese in origin, help guys!
At first glance Nigel Tufnel is wearing a fairly standard leopard print t-shirt, but if you look at the sleeves they’re asymmetrical, which makes me wonder if Nigel is actually wearing two shirts in this scene, a standard white one underneath and the leopard print over the top. As usual, for shirts like this (aka ones that you should only wear if you’re a rock star that can get away with these things), head to eBay.
I was just going to add this photo in to be a completist since I have called this post “Every T-shirt…”,, but then I took a stab in the dark that the AH and EP stood for Uriah Hepp, lo and behold I was right, and via the wonder of Google Image search I managed to find the full design here. Fair enough, I didn’t find it on sale, but I think simply finding a tour t-shirt from 1978 is pretty neat.
There’s definitely a couple of t-shirts in this crowd shot but there’s not the detail to be able to make them out properly. Perhaps a fan of the bands on the shirts might recognise the logos and help us out in the comments. *UPDATE* Nicole from Mighty Fine informs me that the shirt on the left is the now-vintage logo of a SoCal rock raido station called KLOS 95.5FM. Thanks Nicole!
Not a t-shirt but close enough, here’s Nigel Tufnel rocking out wearing a San Fransisco Giants replica jersey. I’m going to presume that it’s a 1983 version of the jersey, which I can’t find for sale online (though I presume it’s in many treasured collections), or a replica, but the latest version of the jersey for 2012 actually looks remarkably similar.
Here’s Joe ‘Mama’ Besser drumming for the band (before disappearing in Japan, presumed dead or playing Jazz), wearing what looks like a t-shirts that has metal balls on it. Not a clue where to buy this, sorry guys, might take a DIY effort.
Not in the film, but I like this Polymer Records (Spinal Tap’s record company) from Last Exit to Nowhere.
That’s your lot, end of film. I really wish I’d been able to find more of the shirts available for sale but with a 28 year old film it’s always going to be a challenge. If you’d like to see me take on other films let me know via the comments, Twitter on @hideyourarms, or the HYA Facebook page. Of course, we live in an age where sharing posts like this is that currency of the web, if you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to share it on social media site like Twitter, Facebook or your own blog I really would genuinely appreciate it.