Monday, September 28, 2009

Junk Food Tees: A Representation of Kitsch

Donned by everyone from Britney Spears to Jennifer Aniston, Junk Food tees are a great example of the concept of kitsch. The tee shirt company made its break through roughly a few years ago by placing retro images of snack foods, cartoon characters and rock and roll bands. The company became wildly successful by charging as much as 50 dollars for a faded throwback t-shirt. The retro symbols and logos that were placed on the t-shirts were clearly “given new value over time precisely because they had become iconic artifacts of a past era,” (57) as Sturken and Cartwright explained.

As I sit here criticizing the concept of a poor quality t-shirt glorifying a Twinkie wrapper, I remember the Junk Food tee purchase that I made a few summers ago and realize that I’m no better than the rest of them. The light blue t-shirt with Cookie Monster’s face in the center and the phrase, “Me Want Cookies” on the back jumps in to my mind along with the $45.00 receipt showing my proof of purchase. It was so cool and I had to have it. The shirt acted as a salute to my past and a representation of how something that was once low brow can be desired by high taste.


  1. Yeah it's ridiculous how things can become so overpriced once it's in demand. I don't know if this was the case in the States but in Asia the "little miss/mr (lazy, naughty, grumpy...etc)" shirts became a big hit and were selling for a lot of money as well though it probably only took a dollar to make.

  2. You're not the only one. Freshman year, I bought a Transformers t-shirt from Urban Outfitters. Have I ever seen the Tranformers Cartoon? No. Do I have any interest in the show/movies? Not really. DId I think I would look cool wearing it? Chyeah. This just goes to show how the sale of vintage/throwback clothing has been money in the bank, especially for stores like Urban Outfitters whose customers are mainly the wannabe hipsters who are willing to pay too much for a Gak green Gumby T-shirt or a a shirt with a fierce wolf howling at the moon with dream catchers and a beautiful mountain range in the backround accompanied by overpriced ripped/paint-spattered jeans.

  3. I have a Junk Food shirt that I bought at Urban years ago. Is it a fun shirt (and one that has lead to some fun conversations)? Absolutely. However, it's also really damn comfortable. In rehearsal over the summer, a colleague pointed out that he's been wearing a similar shirt for nine years--it's torn up in places and faded, but incredibly comfortable.

    Symbols and appearance are certainly important, but sales would probably be down if the fabric was abrasive.