Orhun Öner has a better hardcore band t-shirt collection than you. It's just a fact. Öner's collection first got on my radar in 2016 after his self-published Life.Love.Shirts book began to get some press. The runaway success of the book helped the German schoolteacher secure a deal with Revelation Records, who will be releasing a new book featuring more of Orhun's vast shirt collection sometime later this year. For the new book, the t-shirt connoisseur spoke with such hardcore legends as Porcell (Youth of Today, Shelter), Walter Schreifels (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand), and Curt Canales (Chain of Strength), to name a few.
While he's still putting together the final touches on the new Life.Love.Shirts volume, I caught up with Orhun to find out more about his passion for hardcore tees.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Ludwigsburg, a small but beautiful town near Stuttgart in Southern Germany.
Did your parents play a lot of music in your home?
My parents listen to a lot of Turkish folklore or pop like Baris Manco. I remember that my father loved to listen to the music extremely loud, it seemed like he was back in Turkey and sometimes he had tears in his eyes while listening, I think he missed his hometown.
I ask this a lot, but it seems like many people in the hardcore scene got into music through heavy metal. Was that the case for you? If not, how did you discover hardcore?
I got into hardcore through crossover. I liked bands like Downset, Dog Eat Dog, Biohazard, and Rage Against the Machine, who are still on heavy rotation, by the way.
What were some of the first hardcore bands that you fell in love with, and what was it about the music that attracted you?
One of the first hardcore bands I heard was Insted. Their positive music and lyrics impressed me so much, that I got into sXe and the vegetarian lifestyle.
Have you ever played in any bands?
I sang in two bands. My first band was Morethanever (yeah, I know, Chokehold content), and we played typical '00s hardcore. The second band was kommaACHTkommaEINS, which had more '90s influences and German lyrics.
At what point did you start buying hardcore band t-shirts? What were some of your first shirts?
I started to buy shirts around 1996 when I did my first orders at Lost & Found Records. Back then I didn't know all the shit [bootlegs] that Lost & Found made. My first shirt was an Ignite shirt with a big logo and a bigger "hardcore" beneath it. Man, I love that shirt, and still own it.
Where we you getting hardcore shirts during the early days? Did you get them mostly at shows, or was it a mail order thing?
It was a mix of friends, shows and mailorder.
Did you ever get ripped off? You know, someone, or a label, not sending you what you ordered? You wouldn’t be the first person!
Sure, I got ripped off several times. I still remember some of the names, a few of them are still active, but more as resellers, but I won't call them out here. I think it's hard to realize that there are people who don't care about honesty, respect, and hardcore. It's a lesson that every collector has to learn.
What are your thoughts on eBay? Was there a point when you could still find good stuff on there?
Dude, I loved eBay. The early '00s were awesome, everyone was hunting for records and no one cared about the cotton. Got some great stuff pretty cheap back then. Well, nowadays, eBay is dead. It's mostly people bidding insane prices, or the sellers bid on their own stuff, that's pretty lame.
What is the most you paid for a shirt, where did you find it, and what band was it?
300 dollar for an original 3-sided Insted Bonds of Friendship Wishingwell Records longsleeve. I got it from Dennis Outspoken in a bundle with other shirts.
Were there shirts that you didn’t get in the past that you regret passing up now?
Man there a tons of shirts, unfortunately I can't remember most of them anymore, but there was the Turning Point Hi-Impact shirt in my favorite color, kelly green, a few years ago. I'm still bummed.
In terms of quality graphics, what hardcore band do you think is/was the most consistent when it comes to merch?
That's a tough one, first thing that came to my mind was Uniform Choice, but on second thought, Chain of Strength.
How do you feel about newer bands doing homage shirts where they jack the logo and look of an older band?
I love it. I mean, maybe the new kids of today get to know some older bands that way.
Outside of yourself, who are some other hardcore shirt collectors that you respect?
Tell me about the book you’ll be releasing through Revelation Records. For someone who is so into classic hardcore, it must be such a thrill to be working with Jordan Cooper and company.
Yeah, it's like a dream came true. I mean, Revelation Records is one of my favorite labels (besides New Age Records) and to work with them and Jordan is pretty great. But I think without Ryan Kuper (Redemption Records), there wouldn't be a book on Revelation Records. Ryan helped me in so many ways that I can't thank him enough. It's unbelievable how much time, work, and effort he is putting in this project. Talking about time and effort, I have to mention my longtime friends Chris Holt (who is doing the great layout) and Marc Linkenheil (who helped me to take the pics of the shirts). The book is a project of friends and I am honored to be a part of it. In the end, it's a book about 300 hardcore shirts and their stories from those involved in making them.
I know you’re a schoolteacher. Do any of your students know about your t-shirt/hardcore obsession?
I don't think so. They know that I am into hardcore (or what they call punk) and they know I have a lot of shirts. They like most of the designs, especially Chain of Strength and Unbroken, but I think they don't like the music. I told them about straight edge and my vegetarian lifestyle once, they couldn't believe that there are people who reject beer and meat [laughs].
How often do you get to go out and see hardcore shows?
It happens pretty rarely nowadays. I mean, I am spending my time rather with my wife and daughter on the weekends. That's much more important than anything else.
SEE ALSO: When Hardcore Bands Went Hard Rock
What are some newer bands that you’ve been listening to as of late?
If you had to pick one hardcore record that best sums up why you love the music so much, what would it be and why?
Insted's Bonds of Friendship! Why? Proud youth it's time to change and live and let live!
Head to Orhun's Instagram page to salivate over his shirt collection, and stay tuned for the release of the Life.Love.Shirts book via Revelation Records.