“We Bootleg, We Boyz, We unmistakably Bizness” – Boot Boyz Biz are a bootleg t-shirt initiative from Chicago. Beginning in early 2015 as “a reaction to the discontent we have towards the current state of bootleg merchandise”, BBB design and print limited edition pieces that reference and appropriate a range of phenomena. These pieces are freshly designed, reasonably priced, and understandably seem to be selling out instantly.
What makes Boot Boyz Biz as a company so attractive is the evident thought that has been taken with each collection. Their references are broad but appropriate, taking influence from Jenny Holzer to Nick Cave. Kevin from BBB explains, “We peel back the onion of various histories and weave together the disparate content we discover along the ride. We have a desire to extend our education on the topics we cherish.” Irresistible is the perfect word to describe this growing but humble company. Their references are also expertly described to the audience in an archive section for each t-shirt on their website. The Boyz find this necessary, justifying the fact that “producing a bootleg product is inherently selfish, and we’re definitely making these shirts for ourselves. But simultaneously we find satisfaction in distributing the images and ideas that are near and dear to us. The archives are there to illuminate our research process and invite any audience to further explore our topics.”
With each new collection of bootleg material BBB release also comes a ‘Boot Journal’, acting as a catalog for their t-shirts. Designed in house and printed with design and publishing studio Nonporous. This zine is just as charming as their garments. Kevin explains, “It’s our religious pamphlet and assemblage of histories, cherry-picked anecdotes, and obscured factoids detailing each of our boot subjects. One can consult the journal for context, awareness, or simply use it as SparkNotes for what one’s about to put on their body.” The decision to print the Boot Journal using Risograph is not only stylish but a sensible decision, “It allows us to produce quickly and cheaply – while allowing the flexibility of colour and paper sizes”.
The effort and attention to detail BBB put into each of their releases displays a company interested in community, not commodity.
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