Can you imagine the surprise in our editorial office when we received a box of T-shirts that seemed to come straight out of the 1970s, emblazoned with names firmly lodged in the past, including ... Pine Knob?
The shirts, despite being brand-new, had a faded, vintage look to them that would cause any native Detroiter north of 40 to do a double-take. Pine Fucking Knob? For real? That and several other iconic memories are the work of shirt-maker Todd Truman and his Superieur Brand T-shirt line.
Truman has produced T-shirts since the 1990s, when he made them for a band he was in. Then he began working for the apparel business, in what he calls the "most bottom rung of the fashion industry." Now, with Superieur Brand, he's slowly climbing that ladder. We grabbed him to ask him about a few of those iconic shirts.
Motorcycle Hill Climb
"That's been going on for many years. I ride motorcycles and Muskegon is only 30 miles away from me. They have this summertime hill climb, that's regionally well-known. It's a big biker thing, modifying a motorcycle to go up this old ski slope. It's dangerous and rustic, but being a bike rider myself, it's relatable on some level. They still do it, but that shirt I lifted off an old poster."
"That's still a store. I was driving down Woodward on my way back from Birmingham, and I saw 'Junkyard Guitars' on an awning and thought it would look cool on a T-shirt. I went inside and we struck up a little deal. I made him 50 shirts and I made myself 50 plus shirts, and they sold pretty well."
Le Detroit de Mackinac
"That's an old vacation thing. It translates to 'the straights of Mackinac.' My brothers used to work on Mackinac Island as carriage tour drivers, and the straights of Mackinac is what you cross to get from the mainland to Mackinac Island. It's just a location, not a brand. That's what the Mackinac Bridge crosses."
Lee's Chop Suey
"I was looking around for defunct restaurants in the Ann Arbor area. I was doing a Google image search and that came up. Ypsilanti to me is a little bit more subversive than doing an Ann Arbor T-shirt. There aren't too many chop suey houses out there."
"It's pronounced 'shobby town.' It was a mission for the Chippewa Indian tribe. I thought it would be cool to do a T-shirt that nobody could pronounce correctly."
"That went back to being a motorcycle rider. At the Silverdome, they used to hold these motocross races. Back in the day, they used to have monster truck events. They had this slogan on TV, 'You can buy the whole seat, but you only need the edge.' I'm never gonna do a monster truck T-shirt again, so why not?"
"That was a last-minute throw-in. I thought it would resonate. I'm from the west side of the state, but I used to go to Pine Knob and I never refer to it as the DTE Energy Music Theatre; I'll always refer to it as Pine Knob. I found this image from the 1970s, and that's been my stellar seller."
"That's another childhood thing. The Blue Angels are something that I've always loved to go and see. I was in the Mount Clemens area and I saw jets fly over. I got in my car and followed them as best I could, which led me to Selfridge Field. I'd heard that they were the first responders to 9/11, so that was the reasoning behind that."
Hiawatha Sportsman's Club
"I saw a sticker on the back of a pick-up truck, and I thought that the sticker itself was cool. I found out that it's a sportsman's club in the Upper Peninsula. I called them to ask for permission and they wouldn't let me — so I made it anyway."
"That is in my neighborhood. It's a dirt track oval, a rock 'em, sock 'em demolition derby type thing. If anybody's got a real hardon for being a NASCAR driver, this is where you start. Take an old beater car, change it, and go race it." — mt
For more information, see superieurbrandclothing.com.