The Simpsons is so much more than just a TV show. They have their own cult fans, official merch, iPhone app and their own amusement park ride! Among the many memorable characters from the show, Bart Simpson stands out as the mischievous punk older brother in the family. Bart’s massive popularity in the 90s sparked a bootleg subculture that produced knockoff tees to meet the public’s demand of Bart Simpson merchandise. The tees, now known as “Bootleg Bart” shirts, have since continued to bolster a following of collectors and fans who continue to buy, sell and trade the bootlegs to this day.
What was the first Bootleg Bart piece you remember starting your collection with?
The first Bootleg Bart shirt I got was an all-white, real thin, shirt with a luminous “gangway pose” (please refer to below image) of Bart skateboarding with a green & blue outfit. My brother and sister and I each got one when we were kids. I don’t have it anymore and in all my time doing Bootleg Bart I still have never seen it pop up. The first one I got to start up the collection was just a straight up generic counterfeit of Bart putting up the peace sign saying “peace man”. Got that one in a tourist trap on Carnaby Street, London before it got a facelift in the early 2000’s.
Why do you think people latched on so strongly to the character of Bart Simpson opposed to other characters in the Simpsons universe?
Because he was the poster boy of the show when it first aired; Bart was the fad. Who knew the show would still be making episodes over 25 years later.
While most of the Bootleg Bart artwork is meant to be funny, there’s quite a few graphics that are really offensive. Looking back, would you say that was just a reflection of underlying culture and public opinion at the time?
Regarding the offensive shirts, I wouldn’t say it was a public opinion, I would say it was the opinion of whoever made the offensive shirts. With bootlegs anyone can make them with a wide range of messages & agendas. Some of the shirts are SO ridiculous and over the top.
What are you planning to do next with Bootleg Bart?
I plan to do as much as I can afford to do at this present time. I have so many ideas for the project. Of course there’s the never ending book project, I’ve also been trying to find a location in London to hold a pop up museum exhibit (so any galleries reading this hit me up). There are also plans to release a second batch of the parody toys based on the classic “Teenage Mutant Ninja Simpson” shirt. To be kept in the loop for any new plans I definitely recommend people out there to subscribe to the newsletter at bootlegbart.com.
The first ever Vancouver Bootleg Bart Art Show will be showing at Fortune Sound Club on Friday, July 17 featuring work by a curated list of both local and international artists. Email ‘your full name & Bootleg Bart’ to guest @ fortunesoundclub.com for free guestlist at the event valid till 11pm.