[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
Almost everyone has once wanted to dress like a rock star, but most people realize how absurd they look in leather pants and sequins. Wisely, then, Hollywood-based clothing company Worn Free sticks to the safe bet: T-shirts, all made from designs previously rocked by Hall of Famers like Bob Marley, Elvis, John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin and Joan Jett.
Under the wrong aegis, the idea could devolve into Venice Beach kiosk kitsch. But the brand, founded by British expat Steve Coe, offers tasteful curation and a sartorial backstory with every re-press. Worn Free has carefully cultivated licensing relationships with the artists or their estates. And there's something to be said for sporting a replica of Kurt Cobain's "Grunge Is Dead" shirt or the very-based "Jesus Looks Like Me" tee once worn by Deborah Harry.
"I came up with the idea for Worn Free while watching
Out of the 17 million would-be million-dollar ideas cooked up during Cheech and Chong movies, Coe may be the only one to actually execute his stoned vision. Respect due. Of course, he promptly forgot about it.
"A few years later, I was working late and Hardcore, [the 1979 film starring] George C. Scott, came on. There was a girl in the film wearing the same shirt as [in] Up in Smoke and it retriggered the idea," the Essex-born Coe says. "It's like reverse product placement. Whereas companies hire models to make their clothing look cool, someone has already made the shirts look cool."