Meet The World's Biggest Fan Of Bootleg Simpsons T-Shirts
The Simpsons is the biggest TV show of all time, so it makes sense that people would try to jump on its success and make dodgy ripoff merchandise.
The sheer amount of copyright-infringing stuff that came out in the 90s featuring America's favourite family was pretty staggering though.
Stuff like this...
A Londoner named Leo, also known as "bootlegbart", has made it his life's mission to document as much of it all as possible.
His Instagram feed is fantastic, and he has a book in the works. We tracked him down for a chat.
HI Leo! What made you start collecting images of bootleg Simpsons merch?
I remember around 2004 I used to go on my girlfriend's computer, go on the internet and save all types of images that were nostalgic/inspiring/interesting to me. She would save them for me on floppy disks which could only fit, like, ten pictures at a time. The following year I got my own computer. Since then I've always kept a library of folders with titles that range from "Iceberg History" to "Dyed Dogs Competition". One of those folders was called "Bootleg Bart".
Do you try and get hold of the actual stuff as well, or just imagery?
Yes I do, I would like to exhibit it or open a museum full of this crap one day. I love the t-shirts the most, as that's what I remember as a kid, but I've got a record in the collection I really like – it's a 12"single from 1990 on "Black Bart Records".
What is it about Bart Simpson that is so appealing to dodgy merch-makers?
Well, "dodgy merch-makers" are businessmen, and like all businesses the bottom line is to make money. Bart Simpson in 1990 made money, so it appealed.
Do you have one particular favourite piece?
That's a tough question, it always changes for me. The one piece I own that I hold the dearest has got to be the Nelson Mandela shirt. I read an article online about how this guy, David Bernstein, unearthed this shirt he bought while living in New York in 1990. I contacted him and told him about the project and he was kind enough to sell it to me for £30.
What's the plan with the book?
The plan is to make the book the go to source for the subject matter, like what Subway Art is to graffiti. It's a work in progress.
Do you still watch The Simpsons?
From time to time, sure. I just have regular TV though, because Rupert Murdoch is the devil.
Follow Leo on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and keep an eye on his site for news of the book. Leo's currently helping awesome French art magazine Be Street put together a Bootleg Bart exhibition in LA and Paris, which you should absolutely go to if you're in either of those places. If you're a budding bootlegger, there's also a competition to win US$1000, so dig out those copyright-infringing pencils...
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