Over 1 Million Yen Per Piece! Vintage T-shirts Continue to Skyrocket in Price | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Over 1 Million Yen Per Piece! Vintage T-shirts Continue to Skyrocket in Price

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Tomokazu Nakamura, manager of the vintage clothing store “What’z up Harajuku. “Mickey T-shirt from the short movie “RUNAWAY BRAIN” sold for 330,000 yen.

At first glance, an ordinary old T-shirt sells for over 1,000,000 yen.

There is one item that is currently attracting a great deal of attention in the fashion industry: vintage T-shirts.

“Vintage T-shirts have been attracting a lot of attention over the past few years, and the price has been rising steadily. Some items have jumped 30 to 40 times. In May this year, an online auction specializing in vintage T-shirts was held in Japan, and the expected bidding price was 1.3 million yen. Other items were sold at high prices and attracted a lot of attention,” said a fashion buyer.

Yuichi Nakamura, manager of “What’z up Harajuku,” a vintage clothing store in Harajuku, Tokyo, which mainly sells vintage items, explains the overheated vintage T-shirt fever as follows.

He explains, “Vintage T-shirts include ‘band T-shirts’ and ‘movie T-shirts’ sold as official goods of bands and movies, ‘art T-shirts’ created as works of art, and ‘anime T-shirts’ featuring works of anime. There are various types of T-shirts such as ‘Band T’ and ‘Movie T’ sold as official goods of bands and movies, ‘Art T’ produced as works of art, and ‘Anime T’ featuring animation works. What they all have in common is that they were sold about 30 years ago. These are generally called vintage T-shirts.

Vintage T-shirts have existed for a long time, but the main products were band T-shirts and skate T-shirts from the ’80s and ’90s, and to be honest, they were not as popular as they are now.It was about 5 years ago that prices started to rise gradually, and have continued to rise steadily ever since. To be honest, we don’t know how far it will go. We sold a long T-shirt of an American photographer, Vluth Weber, for about 600,000 yen three years ago, and now it costs about 1,000,000 yen. I don’t think anyone could have imagined 10 years ago that the world of vintage T-shirts would be like this.”

Why has the price skyrocketed to such an extent? According to Nakamura, the main reason is the popularity overseas.

“Originally, the vintage culture was ahead of its time in Japan,” Nakamura says, “but in the past few years, it has been gaining popularity in the United States and Europe.  American and European stylists have started a trend for this, and foreign celebrities have come to love them. As a result, vintage T-shirts are now attracting attention overseas as well.

In fact, at the American Music Awards held in Los Angeles in 2015, singer Justin Bieber wore a vintage NIRVANA band T-shirt. The item he wore, “heart shaped box,” became a battleground for fashion lovers and Justin fans, and the price skyrocketed. The price of the T-shirt has since dropped, but it is still an expensive item, fetching around 500,000 yen. Manager Nakamura continues.

We go overseas once every three months to buy vintage T-shirts, but it is getting really difficult to find them. In some cases, items that would have been sold three years ago are now completely unavailable.

The “retro boom” of the 1990s is also adding to the popularity of vintage T-shirts, he says.

Since the ’20s, T-shirts from the ’90s culture have become vintage, and the market for vintage T-shirts has expanded,” he says. However, unlike band T-shirts, culture-related T-shirts are produced in small quantities and are not available in large numbers. This is one of the reasons why the balance between supply and demand has become imbalanced, and this is also one of the reasons why prices have skyrocketed. As represented by the vintage T-shirts of the movie “Pulp Fiction,” which is said to be the first movie T-shirt, many of the ’90s T-shirts are popular because of their strong culture and high design. A “Pulp Fiction” T-shirt could be purchased 10 years ago for about 2,000 yen at a cheap store, but now it sells for 200,000 to 300,000 yen. 

Of course, not all vintage items are at a record high price.

The items that are soaring in price are the ones that have a high design among vintage T-shirts, and dead stock items. For example, an “Akira” T-shirt is priced at nearly 500,000 yen, but that is only because of the high quality of the design. The Mickey T-shirt sold as merchandise for the short movie “RUNAWAY BRAIN” has an evil Mickey on the back and sells for 330,000 yen at our store. The rarity of an official T-shirt with this kind of design is directly reflected in the price. In terms of Japanese movies, the movie T-shirts for “Assassin 1” have also been in overwhelmingly small numbers since its release, and they sell for 200,000 to 300,000 yen.

On the other hand, there is concern about the rapid increase in the number of counterfeit items.

“With the growing demand, more fake items are appearing on the market than ever before. In addition to that, every year, counterfeiting techniques improve, and there are more and more cases where even professionals make mistakes. If you are thinking of buying one, I recommend that you have someone with an eye for authenticity look at the item beforehand, or buy from a store you can trust.”

Vintage T-shirts continue to soar in price. How far will the craze go?

Vintage T-shirts from the movie “Pulp Fiction” sell for 200,000-300,000 yen.
NIRVANA’s “heart shaped box” T-shirt, worn by Justin Bieber, sold for 495,000 yen.
AKIRA” T-shirt is popular for its design. 495,000 yen
T-shirt of the movie “Killer 1” is very rare and valuable. 275,000 yen
  • Interview and text by Yu Tsuchiyama

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