We can never miss the T-shirt because it will never leave. The overlords tweak the hoary old construct enough every few years to make it, while not new, at least somewhat reinvigorated. Like the Rolling Stones. The latest evolution has been with us for a couple of years: a shape-shift to tight, collectible, semi-formal graphic-wear. Now comes the trickle-down: from full-service lines like Huntington Beach-based Howe Denim, a pioneer of the pirate-indie-exec-boho-hipster thing (they have heard their Adam Ant well) to smaller start-ups like Irvine-headquartered Affliction.

Affliction opened in June, debuted at last month's Pool Trade Show in Las Vegas, and shipped first examples of its premiere partial line (no bottoms) earlier this month. Not a bad what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation for Eric Foss, Clifton Chason and Todd Beard, three longtime associates in the fashion trenches who head a handful of staff. Hand-distressed with a disc grinder, then tumbled in an industrial washer the size of your garage, their guys' thermals, tees and hoodies sound familiar in design. In execution, however, they are not. The ghoulish graphics—crows, grim reapers, avenging angels, skulls—and silky feel of Affliction's fabrics come off like your favorite Guns N' Roses or Iron Maiden T-shirt renewed: worn-in but vivid colors; complicated, eerie, indelible artwork; and a four-word hangtag mission statement: "Live fast, die young." In fashion, this is business as usual: its casualties match the restaurant business corpse for corpse.

"The definition of Affliction is a state of suffering due to adversity," Foss says, explaining the company name with a grin. "We thought it fit, because of the adversity of running a clothing company. And, then, we're into the edgy graphics."

Graphics are now the reason you buy a T-shirt, why you will pay more for a limited-edition graphic by a name-brand artist, why Affliction ( will very likely succeed: because ?their graphics look new.

"I think at some point, everybody wants to be different and look edgy," Foss says. And even if everyone should wind up wearing the same T-shirt someday—next Thursday—he is absolutely right.


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