Vintage-clothing guru Bob Melet, 49, spent his formative years scouring St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan for hard-to-find punk-rock T-shirts with his older brother. That early thrill of the hunt led to a lifetime of serious finds for the man behind Melet Mercantile, downtown New York’s appointment-only emporium of fashion artifacts that have been marveled over by everyone from Kanye West to Karen Elson.
What genres will be most valuable in coming years?
If you have an original Bob Marley or Peter ToshT-shirt from the early 1980s, before Bob died, that would be worth a lot. The Rolling Stones’ iconic tour T-shirt with the tongue is very valuable. Things from the ’90s as well: Nirvana and Courtney Love command a lot of money right now, and they’re 25 years old — almost vintage, but not even quite.
Hip-hop shirts have become very collectible. Any tips on what to look for?
They’re almost always an extra large, so if you can ever find a small Tupac T-shirt, like the one that my wife wears, that’s rarer. I would personally pay 50 percent more.
How do you determine authenticity?
The screen print in the bottom right corner should generally have some sort of copyright, or a lot of times, the printer put the year. The label is another indicator, and then the actual weave: If you understand the way vintage T-shirts were made, you can literally tell from the stitching.
What is the most coveted shirt you have bought or sold?
A Sex Pistols T-shirt for a thousand dollars. I bought it from somebody that was there back in the day and sold it to a younger new fan that wasn’t there.