Wednesday, 28 January 2009

All Shirts Go To Hell

It was with sadness that I read the following email that dropped into my inbox a few days ago (links removed):

T-Shirt Hell says goodbye. Thanks to all who supported us.

We're sorry to bring the news that T-Shirt Hell will be closing its doors on Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009. Everything is now on sale during our final days.

For a message from the creator of TSH, Sunshine Megatron, go here. To view our final new shirts, plus 14 shirts we are bringing back as a thank you to everyone (including some of the best of our old Worse Than Hell section), go here.

It's been a deliciously wicked ride. Devilspeed to all who supported us.

(Customer service on all orders will continue for 60 days beyond our close date.)


Sunshine Megatron (formerly Aaron Landau Schwartz), the founder of T-Shirt Hell, has also written a more substantial explanation of his decision to close down T-Shirt Hell, which can be read here. Whilst there are several reasons behind Megatron's choice given, the two that stick out the most to me are republished below:

"I just don't feel like dealing with idiots anymore. I'll give you an example of the kind of misguided morons we deal with on a regular basis at T-Shirt Hell. We released a new shirt a couple weeks ago that says "It's not gay if you beat them up afterwards". I will not explain the irony or the social commentary of the slogan because anyone with half a brain should be able to handle that on their own. Problem is, we've been besieged with emails from angry people complaining about the "fact" that the shirt is hate speech or that we're promoting gay bashing and should take it down immediately."

"I can't say I'm surprised we're getting hate mail from people who have nothing better to do than to start half-assed campaigns because of their lazy, just enough passion for an email, ideals towards a misguided cause. It happened when we did our first really controversial shirt, "The School Shootings Tour", it happened when we did our "What About All The Good Things Hitler Did" shirt, it happened when we did our "Arrest Black Babies Before They Become Criminals" shirt (boy did it happen then). It used to happen all the time when we did more social commentary and didn't give a fuck about what anyone thought and did shirts that did not leave anyone out. Unfortunately, as a concern for the safety of my employees, we don't push the envelope as much anymore...and I can't say I feel good about having caved in. Anyway, rather than cater to the masses, I'm just going to stop making shirts."

As a fan and sporadic customer of T-Shirt Hell for a good few years, I have several feelings towards Megatron's decision.

Firstly, I'm glad that he has decided to call it a day before he started resenting the company he created. T-Shirt Hell, whilst always flying in the face of political correctness, had definitely toned down its product somewhat in what are now its autumn years. I had heard that both Megatron and some of his staff had had serious attempts at physical harm made on them and that this was the reason things had been reined in ever so slightly. If he had continued on but watered down the product further, Megatron would have lost credibility with those people to whom he originally aimed his shirts. The same would have been true if he had decided to sell the name of T-Shirt Hell to a clothing company (something which he has also stated he actively chose not to do despite the serious profit he would have made). So Sunshine Megatron can walk away from T-Shirt Hell with his head held high and a legacy of which to be proud.

Secondly, I find it a somewhat depressing fact that the general public can bother to hound a t-shirt company which promotes humour not to their taste to the point that they would rather close their doors than bend to the pressure put upon them to change. There are much worse things in life than a t-shirt that offends you. If it offends you, don't wear it, don't buy it. If seeing someone wearing it in the street offends you, you have the right to let them know that, but don't actively seek out the website from which they bought the shirt and send them hate mail.

I suppose I'm lucky in that very few things in the world intended to be humorous offend me. Some humour is not to my taste, or more often I just don't find funny, but I'm not going to push for that humour to be removed from transmission, publication or however it is being put out there. Because the kind of humour I dislike is generally accepted by society, even if I did I would almost certainly be largely ignored and nothing would change. But if something is largely not accepted by society, that's when freedom of speech is ignored and people claim "offense", and the taste of some is often ultimately sacrificed for the intolerance of many.

I can feel myself getting into a rant, and this is a topic upon which I could write a great deal (and may do so in a future entry). But for now, I'm off to browse T-Shirt Hell's remaining stock as well as the return of some classic shirts and some from the now defunct "Worse Than Hell" section, and I urge you, whether you have done so before or not, to do the same. Farewell T-Shirt Hell. Thank you for giving me some genuine laughs, making me want clothing that I could almost certainly never work up the courage to actually wear in public (and I'll be the first to genuinely declare: shame on me), and showing me that if someone actually wants to create something, no matter how controversial or esoteric, with determination and self-confidence it can be done. If only for a certain amount of time.

6 comments:

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

not in quite the same vain (the jugular), but still a good t-shirt site, threadless.com

Hanspan said...

See, I've been pretty offended by some of the T-shirts on T-shirt hell. Never to the point of sending hate mail mind, but it's a fine line between humour and insult. And not everyone who is offended is automatically an idiot just because they have a different sense of humour.

And while I would say on balance, I think it's terrible they've had to close for their own personal safety, I think you run the risk that there are some morons out there who a) think they're being serious and b) agree with them.

Little LeBamski Urban Achiever said...

Just out of interest Hannah, which of the shirts did you get the most offended by?

Hanspan said...

I'd have to go back and check to be honest, clearly it didn't leave a lasting impression to the point where I felt it was necessary to send a death threat, but since I'm procrastinating by being on here anyway, I'll check once I've moved house (tomorrow!). That's not to say I'll check tomorrow, but that I'm moving house tomorrow and ergo, should be doing something useful now.

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

It's an interesting concept really, there are a few shirts I'd consider buying, but probably wouldn't as I'm not into text t-shirts that much, there are others that I think are funny, but would never wear as I know other people wouldn't think it was funny and thus think badly of me, and there are others which I really don't find funny, not in an offended way, but more of a "you gotta be a bit of a dick to want other people to know that about you!" kinda way.

I kinda think that t-shirts display something of your personality, but in such a way that it's not really put in context, so if there's likely to be any contention about a design I probably wouldn't wear it as I would want anyone to think something about me which isn't true.

Random thoughts from Andy

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

They aren't really random, I'm using it in an arbitrary way not an I'm a teenager who wants to sound crazy by doing something random like... I dunno I'm struggling to come up with something stupid as an analogy. Oh well, you get the point... and then say that it's/I'm "So random!!!".

Random != an actual random event.
(see http://www.w3schools.com/PHP/php_operators.asp "Comparison Operators" section if you don't get what I mean)