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AIDS Chic?


Aaron Bernstein at The Shophound, writes:

"We are pretty sure that these shirts didn't sell at Barneys during their original run, and we're also pretty sure that they didn't cost $50 either, but that's how much one will set you back today. The shirts have actually been reissued by the tireless team at Opening Ceremony in conjunction with ACT UP, and, of course, a portion of that price tag will go to the activist group (which, yes, still exists). Has the angry life-or-death struggle against AIDS from years past finally been co-opted into a blithe fashion statement, or will the images succeed once again as a potent reminder that AIDS is still with us and remains a threat to everyone's health?"

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  1. Distasteful but not at the least bit surprising.

    Posted by: Diogenes | Mar 14, 2011 5:37:30 PM

  2. A "portion" of the profits goes to Act Up? What percentage? It would be interesting to know.

    Posted by: Steve | Mar 14, 2011 5:40:29 PM

  3. I saw them at the store and thought they were extremely powerful in person - a flashback I wasn't prepared for - I don't think the images can be reduced to "fashion statement." But I'm not the consumer of $50 t-shirts.

    In particular, the "Read My Lips" shirt, the one with the men kissing, seemed both powerful and contemporary, a message of our moment today.

    Posted by: John Farley | Mar 14, 2011 5:55:07 PM

  4. Now I know how Mick Jagger feels when he hears "Jumpin' Jack Flash" being played in the aisles of his local supermarket.

    I can deal with that, no problem: yesterday's revolution is always today's elevator music and the fact that I'm apparently now slated to die of old age is perhaps the funniest joke I've ever heard, even if it's on me.

    Unfortunately, nostalgia is a sure sign of a culture in decline. It's creepy to imagine today's gay kids wearing another generation's nightmare/glory days on their chests, all the while whining about their right to be imprisoned in straight people's ugliest failed institution.

    I take it back - it's not creepy, it's disgusting. Get a life for Chrissakes - and not my former life. Trust me, nostalgia for hooking up IVs and wiping the sore-covered butts of the skeletons of demented ex-lovers is a huge, self-indulgent mistake. It's probably inevitable for me, along with the screaming PTSD nightmares and weeping on my cat at 4:00 am, but even I fight it.

    Even if you can't understand why it's wrong, surely you can understand it's, well... tacky. Really, really tacky.

    Posted by: Bryan | Mar 14, 2011 6:17:39 PM

  5. Wow. I still have a few of mine, including one from Act-Up Paris.

    But they have some old stains on them that won't come out.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Mar 14, 2011 6:31:21 PM

  6. Kind of an old story -- these shirts have been for sale at Barneys (and probably Opening Ceremony among other places) for months now.

    However, I have to agree with the comment above -- when you see these shirts in the context of a store, it's still kind of unexpectedly shocking. They definitely get your attention, and maybe that's still the point.

    Posted by: D.B. | Mar 14, 2011 6:39:44 PM

  7. i think that's awesome. as someone who contracted hiv recently, it's a message that's still relevant.

    Posted by: me | Mar 14, 2011 6:46:44 PM

  8. It would be very difficult for that t-shirt to be a mere fashion statement. The message and imagery are much too powerful. The person wearing it would not only be making a fashion statement (and there is nothing wrong with that) but also a political one. The image can't shed its political past. And if you ask me, it's a message that is certainly needed as the younger generation and some of the older are not paying attention or being responsible about HIV.

    Posted by: Todd | Mar 14, 2011 7:15:56 PM

  9. It's disheartening to read comments criticizing Barneys or Opening Ceremony for selling these t shirts. Where would you suggest they be sold? And for what price in 2011?

    They've been out for months and as someone who is HIV positive I couldn't be happier. I bought mine the week they were released, and while it would be great if all the proceeds went to ACTUP I'm pleased they're contributing something.

    Posted by: David | Mar 14, 2011 8:12:51 PM

  10. Fashion statement?
    Maybe for the witless twenty-something set.

    Reminder of the intense pain of the era and of taking care of fiends who died and the anger and action that changed things?
    Sure, and it's welcome. Especially if it educates the witless twenty-something set about HIV, about our recent history and about the government's ignorance / silence and Reagan's hatred / fear that killed so many innocent people.

    Posted by: MichaelDC | Mar 14, 2011 10:14:24 PM

  11. These shirts are iconic, and unlike "i (heart) ny," they pack a powerful punch. No overpriced boutique will ever change that. If they remind apathetic people today of a time when queers actually stood up for each other, so much the better. Gran Fury was genius.

    Posted by: dh | Mar 15, 2011 3:19:52 AM

  12. While I think it is always good to get a message out, I do question them being sold at the Barney's CO-OP, a company owned by a Dubai equity firm. As you know, Dubai is not known for its tolerance of gays and those with HIV. I would be more comfortable if the shirts were carried by more accessable merchants and that there be disclosure of how much goes to the organization. Thank you for listening.

    Posted by: AngelaChanning | Mar 15, 2011 6:58:47 AM

  13. Before I drop one cent to purchase these t-shirts for ActUp, I'd have to have, in writing, how much of a percentage of the proceeds went to them. Sorry, it's just the way I roll.

    Posted by: Beau | Mar 15, 2011 9:23:45 AM

  14. How about people just send 50 bucks to ActUp?

    Posted by: The Milkman | Mar 15, 2011 10:52:02 AM

  15. I knew I should have saved mine! As long as ACT UP is getting some funding I'm happy. Do they come in Barney's bag?

    Posted by: bjcavnor | Mar 15, 2011 2:46:40 PM

  16. The message is relevant, but the price is obscene.

    Posted by: JDB | Mar 15, 2011 5:45:28 PM

  17. Actually, there is something now. It’s pretty new, but the Chronic Disease Fund is the organization behind a vaccine that prevents HIV from turning into AIDS. Their site is

    Posted by: Storm | Apr 21, 2011 11:45:39 AM

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