There's something sacred about an old beat-up T-shirt with its cracking silkscreen, holes in the armpits and rips on the sides. Jordan Mattos, a native New Yorker from Long Island City understands the importance of a well-worn piece of cotton. The wistful 25-year-old makes one-of-a-kind T-shirts that are as personal and endearing as a pair of jeans with knee-holes and scribbles from junior high. He's half Colombian and half Portuguese but sometimes gets mistaken for a Middle-Easterner. His scrumptious brown locks and pronounced features are intoxicating enough to make Zac Posen seem like a plain Jane.
As for the T-shirts, each piece is painstakingly hand-drawn by Mattos and usually features a collage of images pieced together from his favorite movies with a black Sharpie and a magic marker. "I got the idea after seeing the Fassbinder film series at the Film Forum in 2003," says Mattos. "It was a turning point in my life. I became obsessed with him and based my first shirt on Fear Eats the Soul." Since then, the NYU film school graduate has penned many more Tees inspired by Fassbinder films and has gone from paying a personal homage to the great German filmmaker to fulfilling the fantasies of other fans.
Mattos takes orders through his web site (www.jordanmattos.com) and custom-makes T-shirts according to requests for $150. "A lot of times people will ask me to pick an image from a Fassbinder movie and I'll sketch out something and email it to them. Then they'll make suggestions like 'Can you take out the swastika here and add something here?'" says the artist.
If Fassbinder's not your thing, Mattos is still your man. Through his website, Mattos has received some pretty obscure T-shirt requests. "It's been educational for me as well. Somebody asked me to do a T-shirt of Asha Bhosle and I didn't know who she was. So I researched her and found out that she's this famous Indian singer. And this woman asked me if I could do a drawing from her husband's book for his birthday. It turns out the husband was Jim Shepard who wrote Nosferatu. She gave me a bunch of quotes from the book to work from and I hand-delivered the shirt and they were really happy with it."
There is an element of naivetÃ© and sincerity to Mattos's drawings, which attracts others who share his taste for the art-house. "I like how T-shirts are nostalgic and how they fade and get misty," Mattos muses. "I love my Sinead O'Connor shirt from '89. She would be my dream customer."