Minor Threat shirts are now on sale at Urban Outfitters for a cool $28, and frontman Ian MacKaye is fine with it. The hardcore punk tastemaker (who also fronts Fugazi) told Washington City Paper that the store’s shirts for the Eighties punks are licensed, legitimate merch.
MacKaye explained that his label, Dischord, doesn’t make shirts, but the amount of bootlegged Minor Threat merchandise prompted him to take action. “It’s fucking absurd the amount of bootlegs [that] are out there,” MacKaye said. So he set up Dischord with California company Tsurt to print official tees; now any bootlegs are Tsurt’s problem instead of his. “My time is better spent doing other things,” MacKaye said.
Though MacKaye’s music has long taken volatile social and economic stands, he said he had different motivations for creating the apparel. “It’s not a political thing for me,” MacKaye said, adding that he once invested lots of time and energy into tracking down bootleggers only for it to be “a complete waste of time.” His reasoning was direct: “I just don’t give a fuck about T-shirts,” he said.
However, MacKaye made it clear that he and Urban Outfitters don’t share similar mindsets. “Do I think it’s absurd? Yes, I certainly do,” he said. “Motherfuckers pay $28; that’s what they wanna pay for their shirts.” He compared the shirts to people spending money on shoes. “I guess it makes their feet feel fuckin’ rich,” he said.
MacKaye has dealt with bootlegs and unauthorized merchandise before; according to Pitchfork, Dischord struck back against Forever 21 for carrying unlicensed Minor Threat shirts in 2009. In 2005, Nike pulled a poster for a skateboarding tour titled Major Threat for its resemblance to Minor Threat album artwork.
Other artists have handled similar situations recently: according to the BBC, Rihanna won a $5 million lawsuit against Topshop and its parent company, Arcadia, for using an image of the singer on a shirt.