The Raddest T-Shirt Collection I’ve Ever Seen

I can’t believe the T-Shirt Show was a year ago. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was in Home Depot in Lakewood, Ohio trying to decide on what kind of dowel rods to buy and figure out how the hell we were going to attach them to the wall.

A lot has happened in this year, from May to May. I’m in the middle of a huge and completely different project, on the other side of the country. If you would have told me a year ago that this is where I would be- I would have totally believed you! I am a cusp baby born between Sagittarius and Capricorn; I take spontaneous decisions and turn them into goals. I get shit done, you guys (most of the time). This time last year, I had just decided to move to Oregon. A state where I knew not a soul nor had ever seen.

I remember walking on the beach with Marty talking about where/if I should move (and where to find mannequins for the show…). I felt like Cleveland had me by my throat- both giving me a reason to leave and threatening me to try. It was both suffocating and familiar.

The t-shirt show wasn’t my first show at the DHG I had about 4 under my belt at this point, but it was the first one I had any real say in. It merged my two favorite things in the world loud music and told t-shirts. WHAT A DREAM!

From interviewing Erna Hammer, one of the most boss babe’s I’ve ever interviewed and owner of nearly the entire t-shirt collection worth more than $10k, to caulking over the holes we drilled into the wall a few weeks later, my hands were all over this show. Since I was in the weeds that entire month, I never really got the chance to share my favorite stories from my interview with Erna. So, here you are, an interview anyone can appreciate, from metal heads to vintage clothing aficionados:

Erna Hammer: Radio DJ, Local Legend, Owner of the Raddest T-Shirt Collection I’ve Ever Seen

Let me start by saying Erna has no idea how cool she is. After every story she would reiterate, “but don’t make this show about me”. Her t-shirt collection is a mix of priceless shirts in mint condition and once-priceless shirts ripped and stained to oblivion - lost to the wild ways of the 1980’s. But Erna doesn’t care, “It was the 80’s, It was fashion!”

Her shirts came from all over, as a radio DJ in the 80’s and 90’s she was gifted a lot of swag that us pleebs could never dream of getting our hands on. Some shirts, like her original GOD SAVE THE QUEEN Sex Pistols shirt was sent to her from a friend who visited Malcolm McLaren’s sex shop in London.

Original venom tshirt

She has a Venom shirt - from the original print run. Metallica shirts are a dime a dozen now, you can probably go to your nearest Forever 21 and grab a handful for $20. But the Metallica shirts Erna has were not bought at a mall, “Some shirts are from scalpers at shows, a lot of them I bought through money order from the bands and their managers.”

She acknowledges that there's a bit of a gap where shirts like Radiohead and Nirvana should be, “I was broke in the 90s so, I just wasn’t buying t-shirts. It’s not like my whole life revolved around this.” (you guys, she’s so cool). Also, Erna is a metal head, who’s to say she would have even wanted a Nirvana shirt?! (Also available 10 for $5 at F21, probably).

She also has an OG Dead Boy’s tee and I don’t even think they made merch. That’s some straight up pirated history, just sitting in a drawer in her home in Cleveland, Ohio.

We wanted to do a T-Shirt show this year but collections like Erna’s are hard to come by. I’ve been trying to curate my own collection- both intentionally & unintentionally (and to the chagrin of my boyfriend who thinks used clothes are gross).