Upgrade Your Equipment

Ice-T at E3 2011 for Gears of War

Pizzeria owner Richard Davis invented kevlar body armor after being shot in the chest by three armed robbers during a routine delivery. Davis was a former Marine who ran a pizza shop in Detroit, and not only did he survive the sucking chest wound, he gunned down the robbers for their trouble.

Popping the pizza guy is like the modern equivalent of shooting the messenger, except this time the messenger shot back. It’s an apropos slice of trivia, given that I’ve woken up in a strange place and stumbled home on a Sunday to bring you an important message: video game shirts are terrible. Get rid of them.

You know the ones I mean. The ones that get handed out with pre-orders at GameStop or thrown to the loudest and largest of the franchise faithful at fan conventions like WonderCon or E3. And if you don’t think E3 is packed with slavering fanboys, you’re more delusional than the kid two spots ahead of you in line at the DMV who thought wearing a black Gears of War shirt with the sleeves ripped off and the words “Carmine Must Die” emblazoned across his tits was a good idea.

To be fair, the ripped sleeves do show off his boss Randy Savage tattoo. Way to go, brother.

Look, I know it’s shallow to take shots at strangers for their sense of fashion. But games have seeped from their cultural niche of childish diversion to pollute corners of popular culture like literature, film and men’s apparel. Games are touching my life in unexpected ways, and it makes me uncomfortable. Palette Swaps is predicated on games touching us inappropriately, so it seems an appropriate topic.

Stop wearing black shirts covered in corporate logos. I get that you really enjoyed your time with Halo: Reach or Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but I don’t need your Hanes Beefy T to remind me how much I also enjoyed them. Stop shilling for Microsoft and EA. And on that note, industry folk don’t get a pass; I work in the SOMA district of San Francisco, and every day I see at least one grown-ass man sporting an oversized black t-shirt covered with logos for Zynga or Ubisoft. I don’t care where you work and neither does anyone else on this BART train, so dress like a normal human being instead of a walking billboard. It doesn’t make you look cool. You know who’s cool? Tim Schafer, and more often than not I see him in a rumpled plaid workshirt spotted with baby food or bits of burrito.

Anyway, remember our armor magnate/ex-marine/delivery boy Richard Davis? Dick started his bulletproof vest business in a garage, and he would demonstrate the integrity of his product by shooting himself in the chest. To that end I’ll bite the bullet and admit that I own a few gaming shirts. I think they’re worth wearing for two reasons:

1. They’re well-designed, printed on soft well-made American Apparel shirts by a local business.

2. They don’t look like ass. I bought them from the folks at Fangamer, who pay creative folk with a passion for games to create designs that look good.

Purchasing from Fangamer instead of the Valve Company Store ensures that my clothing is designed to look good, rather than advertise a brand. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a total stranger complement my ragged old Special Forces shirt while waiting for an elevator or a lunch order, and it almost always leads into a frank discussion of how wonderfully batshit insane the Metal Gear games are. Isn’t that the point of wearing our interests on our sleeve? I’ve never seen a Zynga employee drawn into a fruitful conversation about the intricacies of FarmVille by a total stranger, yet I still see grown men wearing those ridiculous shirts every day on my way through South Park.

More importantly, by buying shirts from independent designers I’m supporting entrepreneurs doing good work and helping them channel their passion for games into a profitable business. That encourages others like them to do the same, pushing the boundaries of what games represent in popular culture and building a broader, smarter community of enthusiasts. So tear off your corporate shame tarps and rejoice, fellow 20-somethings: growing up with games has inspired the artists of our generation, and they’re making some pretty neat stuff that you should check out.

Fangamer sells some of the softest, toughest shirts I’ve ever owned. They’re also big into Chrono Trigger and Metal Gear, so you should probably take a look.

Meat Bun also sells some pretty rad shirts inspired by classic games, including some sweet Street Fighter gear. Also, Daigo Umehara is right there on the front page right now so I mean, you know they’re legit.

The King of Games is aptly named, as they made a name for themselves as pretty much the first independent apparel company devoted exclusively to games. They’re based in Japan so it can be rough to match up sizes/currencies, but give ’em a look and I bet you’ll find something worth the trouble.

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