Weitz and Pollack started making their own tees on a whim in the early days of quarantine, putting up an Instagram page for fun to see what would happen. It started to blow up, Pollack explains, after Caris Lavert, then of the Brooklyn Nets, wore one of their shirts to a protest and photos of his ensemble made the rounds online. “Basketball guys are pushing the culture of fashion, and they’re not scared to look crazy,” Pollack says. “Their streetwear gets broadcast around social media, and we’d have nothing without that.” Grace Court tees have since popped up on hoopers Tyrese Maxey, Hamidou Diallo, Terance Mann, and Bruce Brown, making his tees some of the most in-demand in the league.
DAPS Retro likewise started as a lockdown pastime. Dion Sadiku and Adam Puccio, friends based in Australia, were “just locked inside and isolated and bored” last year, Puccio explains. He watched a video on TikTok of someone ironing a picture of Stone Cold Steve Austin onto a plain T-shirt, and he figured he would give it a try. “We did it more or less as a joke at the start, because we were bored. But we let our creative juices flow and followed through with it, and we’re really happy with how it turned out,” Sadiku says. “It was born out of simplicity, really. It was too simple not to do it.”
That experiment expanded into a line of ultra-garish styles featuring the visages of rappers such as Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, and basketball players like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. They’ve had the most success, though, combining their trashy, over-the-top retro aesthetic with new faces from the NBA, especially rookie of the year frontrunner LaMelo Ball. “Everyone, but especially our demographic, loves LaMelo Ball,” Puccio says. “Seeing him on an old-school-style T-shirt, with those Hornets colors, it just works so well.” There is something irresistibly dissonant about seeing the young LaMelo in this very specific aesthetic context, which feels like it belongs so firmly to a particular place and time. The uncanny effect is key to the fake bootleg shirt’s entire appeal.
By far the biggest name in the bootleg-tee game right now is Do Not Disturb, the Atlanta-based streetwear brand owned and operated by fashion designer Ferris, whose shirts are staples in the wardrobes of Young Thug and LeBron James, among many, many others. But Ferris is keen to point out that, as a brand, Do Not Disturb has endeavored to be very socially conscious — and their messaging makes them stand out.