Do Androids Dream of a nice T-shirt?
Blade Runner prequel? No thanks. Blade Runner sequel? Er, pass. Tyrell Corporation T-shirt? We'll take it in Tawny Owl Brown, please. Laura Brown meets the film fans putting the geek in geek chic.
Pop quiz, hotshot: What’s the name of the shark hunter hired to hunt the great white in Jaws? In Back to the Future, what’s the name of Marty McFly’s hometown? OK, here’s an easy one then, the giant marshmallow man in sailor’s attire who pops up at the end of Ghostbusters is the mascot for which company?
Too obscure, or are you sitting there nodding saying “yes, I know that one, and that one, my word woman, these are easy!”
The film geek used to be a much maligned and mocked character, think of Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons. He probably, we assumed, spent a bit too much time indoors or on his own and his point of reference was more likely to be George Lucas than George Orwell. But of late there’s been a sea-change. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright’s series of movies glorifying the film nerd, brought to a nigh on deification in Shaun of the Dead, have made him not only socially acceptable, nah aspirational. Showing you love film, whether through your Twitter, a podcast or even the clothes you’re wearing (Star Wars limited edition trainers anyone?) is derigeur for a manchild in his thirties.
Two entrepreneurs from Liverpool know that as much as well as the next Blade Runner aficionado. Last summer, David Metcalfe and Barry Hodgson decided to put their money where their mouths are and set up the company they’d been obsessing about. A pair of film geeks, the two had dreamt up an idea of creating unusual and, let’s be perfectly honest, ultra-nerdy, T Shirt designs. Borne from their love of cult films, uber torso uses designs featuring the fictional companies, brands and logos that appear in flicks like Alien, Ghostbusters, Kill Bill and The Firm (no, didn’t see that one coming either – ed).
“There’s a sense with film fans”, says David, “Of trying to outdo eachother. You score points on how many rare or cult films you’ve seen, your intricate knowledge of the plot, storyline and characters. That’s a massive part of the community. We wanted to celebrate that and share in it”.
Star Wars offers the perfect example. Intergalactic traders, alliances, even bars and restaurant the possibilities are endless. There are T Shirt’s designed of quotes from the film, faces of characters – let’s be perfectly honest, no-one’s going to accuse George Lucas of being a man to ignore a marketing opportunity – but there are few brands that really get underneath the skin of a film, and try to identify what it is about, the movie that fans love.
“They give the film a depth and an attention to detail that makes them a classic. Look at something like Blade Runner. This futuristic world Ridley Scott and his film created, they thought of everything from Cola Campaigns and sushi joints to the Tyrell Corporation and the different models of the replicants (machines) Deckard is out to kill. It’s that sense of realism, of another perfectly formed world that helps you lose yourself in a movie. That’s the enthusiasm we want to share”.
David and Barry run the firm from Bootle, while both running separate businesses in the city’s creative industries. They’re surprised by how popular uber torso has become so quickly. Last month they had their busiest day yet. Their Facebook page recently totted up over 2,000 fans (to celebrate they held a 10% off day) and they’re gaining ground on Twitter, linking up with movie-lovers all over the network. The company is also making a name for itself from fans around the globe, even in Hollywood.
“We got an order in from this guy in America”, says Barry. “We got chatting because often you’ll get customers ask question over email about the T Shirts and you can end up getting into a fairly regular correspondence. So we’re chatting to this guy online and he starts talking about the Avatar T Shirt which features the Resources Development Administration, the conversation kept going and eventually he tells us he was one of the character designers on the film. We were like ‘wow’, news is spreading fast!”
Sartorially speaking, the chaps put their growing popularity as well down to the fact that fewer and fewer men wear suits to work.
“You can get away with wearing a T Shirt under a suit jacket now and that being perfectly acceptable office attire. Having a shirt that’s a bit unusual and isn’t just straight off the high street is appealing. Imagine the embarrassment if you walked into work and found you were wearing the same off the rack T-Shirt. Mortifying!”
2011 will be the year they start to expand further. They’ve developed a partnership with Picturehouse at FACT to display the T Shirts in the cinema and they’re also linking up with film festival across the country. They are also planning to expand into posters, no word yet on women’s T Shirts though, although we’re told the small seems to do the trick.
“Obviously, we want as many people as possible to hear about us. This is the year we want to be as big as some of the other T Shirt companies out there.” Maybe, perhaps, as big as the Tyrell corporation itself. Have you seen their offices? We don’t think they’re in Bootle…
And in case you’re still wondering, I don’t want the uncertainty to keep you awake, it’s Quint, Hill Valley, California and of course Stay Puft Marshmallow Corp.