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Thread the Needle! – Killer Grafix

Abraham Drimmer April 23, 2014 All Things Hoon 2 Comments

Welcome to “Thread The Needle!” A weekly column that explores the rich history of motorsports by way of the thrift store t-shirt.

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  I mean, I’m sure if I asked nicely someone at the AMA would let me dig through boxes of yellowing Modern Cycle issues until I found out exactly what happened at Kensworthy’s Motocross park that summer, but I’m a busy man…at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

What little I can glean from Kensworthy’s Facebook page and various Motocross forums of debatable reliability tells me it was Troy, Ohio’s premier motocross park. Although calling it premier might be bit generous. Only motocross park seems more apt. It seems to have closed. The early 90’s saw motocross’s popularity ticking upward at a predictable pace. The messy sport had started like every other modern American pastime, by bored dudes after the war. By 1993 motocross was starting to whip itself into a commercial frenzy whose inevitable crescendo was a backflip. Yeah, I know motocross is different from freestyle motocross, but tell that to a 5 year old. The bike still gets sold.

Alright, brass tacks. From what I can tell Grafix Sportswear still exists, but in a mode far different from the day this shirt got approved for printing. I don’t think they have it in their budget to sponsor sporting events now, but were they even the sponsor of this forgotten event? It’s difficult to tell because the composition is so misleading. The poor use of color wheel, and the strange quasi-graffiti motif background (repeated front at back) make for illegible text. Yes, the rider mid-jump is totally rad, but as the central subject of the piece he completely fails to motivate the action (your eyes) to the context (the text and background). The best thing I can say about this composition is its prescience of the looming specter of the Monster Energy® design language.

What most confuses me here, is the use of graffiti-esque elements in the background, notice how they bleed in around the text at the top, especially around the “X” as if to say, “we are are Grafix Sportswear, and we are know what the kids like”. But was graffiti really what Midwestern motocross fans were into the early 90’s? What does graffiti have to do with motocross at all? Skateboarding I get, something something repurpose urban landscape. Organized motocross isn’t really about that narrative, though I don’t fault Grafix Sportswear for trying. The early 90’s were a complicated time for Motocross, as fan tastes and viewing habits ushered crowds into stadiums for the jump heavy Supercross events, the old muddy flat tracks went the way of the dodo. From what my research tells me, Kenworthy’s was one of those flat tracks. No jumps, no good spectating, a holdover from a time when anyone who would have gone, would’ve raced. Grafix probably had a contract to honor and this shirt is a testament to whatever attempt they took to keep the humble track relevant in the face of irreversible change in the sport’s paradigm.

It’s tough to stay cool.

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Had a similar shirt when I was maybe 8. I wore it anytime it was clean. I don't remember the event it was from, just that I thought the rider looked like some sort of superhero.

  • Ol' Shel'

    When you say "graffiti", do you really mean "confetti"?

    Moto graphic design has always sucked, always will.