Matt Sloane talks Jerks™: the vintage platform with music at its core
Jerks™ is the London-based vintage platform unearthing secondhand gems, tees and memorabilia from your favourite artists’ decades-old merch drops.
Founded by Matt Sloane, Jerks™ – formerly known as Teejerker, the name under which the platform launched some six or seven years back – has become the place to grab everything from OG t-shirts from the likes of Radiohead, Hole and Björk to die-hard-ready rarities like Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker umbrella and more budget-friendly purchases like a Portishead badge all in a single late-night online shopping session, with new additions added to the online shop every weekend.
Since its relaunch as Jerks™ – a move that provided an opportunity for Sloane, his team and the brand to branch out further than the solely t-shirt-focused market through which he made his initial name, and introduce other forms of merch, objects and music-based items into the fold – the platform has expanded both in scale and following. Celebrity clients, editorial bookings and in-store link-ups with brand such as Heaven by Marc Jacobs and Aries are now part of its regular routine. However, the driving ethos remains very much the same as it always was: spotlighting items and wares that resonate personally, and connect with a moment in time or a countercultural movement.
Here, we speak to Sloane about sourcing, sustainability, memorable items and curating both a brand and a personal collection.
Can you explain a little bit about who you are and what you do?
My name is Matt Sloane and I run Jerks™ – a south London-based vintage brand which has its roots in music, the arts and counterculture. We sell almost entirely used items and are proud to be pushing the global vintage market forward, highlighting that there is so much cool shit out there and maybe you don’t have to buy something ‘new’ to be satisfied.
When did you start Jerks™ and how did you get into selling vintage merch? Was the focus always on music memorabilia?
I came across a couple of Instagram pages in 2017 selling music t-shirts and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. I’ve always been massively into music and had bought my clothes from charity shops from my early teens. To see that these passions could align felt exciting, like something I needed to do. Initially I was only selling band t-shirts from my bedroom and it was just me, but as the brand has evolved we sell all kinds of items (like clothing, homewear) that resonate with the subcultures me and the team – there are four of us – are into.
What inspired you to relaunch the platform in the way you did in 2022, away from Teejerker?
The expansion of the brand. As a five-minute brand idea Teejerker was a good start, but to really grow and cover all types of items we wanted to we needed to drop the explicit focus on t-shirts. I wanted to change it for a long time before we actually rebranded, but was happy to wait and execute the changeover correctly.
“I don’t care about trying to chase what the next hype artist or item is in vintage, I’m just trying to sell shit that we think is cool. It tends to always work out when the focus is so personal”
Tell us a little about how you operate – what is your sourcing strategy and frequency like, and how do you know if something is right for your audience?
Sourcing is quite broad these days, I travel three to four times a year for a bigger buy. We’re also lucky in that because we have a big audience and pay very fairly, we get people coming to us looking to sell items. We’ve recently bought a couple of entire collections from longtime Jerks™ followers who were looking to get a house deposit together – or something sensible like that! It’s nice for us to be able to make someone turning their collection into cash so easy. In terms of what’s right for the audience, it comes pretty naturally to us because it’s the stuff that we, the team, are genuinely into. I don’t care about trying to chase what the next hype artist or item is in vintage, I’m just trying to sell shit that we think is cool. It tends to always work out when the focus is so personal.
On the hype tip, though, are there artists or trends that you anticipate being in high demand in the near future?
Well, I think that if an artist, film, band or so on has made a substantial contribution to their genre or field, you can assume their merchandise is going to be valuable in the future. Which contributions matter is for everyone to decide themselves though, rather than me listing stuff from the 2000s that I personally really like. I also think that the vintage or resell market is growing rapidly, which means that people’s curation can get more and more niche and refined. If an artist only made 100 t-shirts from a specific album release, you don’t need many people to be looking to acquire one for the secondary market value to massively increase. I think people should focus more on stuff that resonates with them, however small, rather than looking for broader trends.
What do you think is the appeal of vintage pieces for electronic music fans in particular?
I think the main factor is the scarcity of items. Particularly in the 90s, electronic artists would mostly play clubs and have to be pretty big in order to graduate to playing more traditional venues that you’d typically see a band play. No one was really selling merchandise in a club setting, so in general there are a lot less merchandise items in existence for electronic artists. From the late-90s onwards, the likes of Warp and Ninja Tune seemed to pay a much more specific focus to merchandise, but before that it’s really quite tough to find stuff.
Are there any artists that are particularly popular with your audience, and what consumer trends have you noticed in recent years?
Staying on the electronic side of things, the demand for Aphex Twin stuff is pretty wild and seems to be continually growing. Richard’s contribution to the genre is undeniable so you have the music fans always looking for original bits. On top of this, though, you see A$AP Rocky wearing an Aphex tee, which in turn brings a load of demand with people who are more looking to align with him than Aphex, per se. You can see how desirable Aphex merchandise is with the prices of much newer items too – in 2018, Warp made some really cool shit – the umbrella from the Windowlicker video (1999) and the bears from the Donkey Rhubarb video (1996). Despite being so new, the resell on these is five to ten times what the RRP was just five years ago.
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Are there any particularly memorable or unusual items you’ve come across in your collecting journey?
The most interesting thing I have recently acquired is a Boards of Canada kaleidoscope from the 2002 release of Geogaddi. The artwork from the album is a kind of kaleidoscope image, so Warp put out this well good promotional item presumably in really small numbers. This is one of those items that I’ve known exists for years, but has taken a long time to actually come across, which is good fun when you actually do.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to or wants to collect vintage music merch or memorabilia?
Again, just don’t follow any hype, whether it be from vintage scenes or because your favourite celebrity was wearing something. Think about all the stuff you’re into and what you grew up liking, chances are there are merchandise items out there promoting these things that you don’t even know exist. Find stuff that you think is cool and more than likely this stuff will at some point be super valuable anyway, as you can bet plenty of other people are also engaged with the same stuff and will want a piece of it.
Biggest ‘pinch-me’ moment so far?
Back in summer 2022 I was in the outskirts of Dallas, Texas. Me and my mate were digging through a closed-down shop and warehouse, there was no AC and it was close to 50 degrees. We did an hour or so of looking through boxes which had deadstock American sports stuff in, nothing we were interested in. It wasn’t feeling like a great spot and then, we opened a box and found two My Bloody Valentine long-sleeves from 1990 and a Lauren Hill t-shirt from 1998. These are serious items, super rare and valuable, it was a great find and definitely made the digging worthwhile.
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How has an increased awareness around the importance of sustainable shopping impacted what you do with the platform?
To an extent for sure, but perhaps more via how customers perceive buying used items rather than my specific approach. I’ve always really loved second-hand items for their one-off nature. I’d much rather spend £500 on a vintage item I’ve never seen than something designer I could see five times in a day in central London. It’s been a goal of mine to communicate this to people. We’ve seen a big change in the six years we’ve been operating, our audience is now much bigger and more willing to buy all kinds of used, worn, stained items from us which is an encouraging trend for the re-use market. As one of the bigger brands in the space, there are a lot of smaller sellers kind of trying to emulate what we do. Looking at it broadly, this is a good thing – if we can inspire 50 other smaller sellers to exist, the net impact Jerks™ has on buying second-hand vs. new is not insignificant; we’re proud of that.
There may be some who consider the prices steep, what would your response be to that?
I think that 99.9 percent of things we’ve ever sold would be worth substantially more now than when they were bought. I do get that £100+ seems a lot for a used t-shirt to a lot of people, but there is never more of this stuff. Demand is increasing and supply is decreasing – with people throwing things away etc – this means only one thing for the price. If I look back at older website listings, there are loads of items which have four or five times their value since we’ve sold them in just a few years. £200 might have felt steep in 2018 for your Sonic Youth shirt, but the good news is you can now flip that same shirt for a grand. Particularly when you’re talking about the higher calibre stuff, you’re investing in culture and, just like original presses of records, artworks, this stuff is going to keep appreciating.
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Any items you are currently on the hunt for personally but yet to find?
You’d maybe be surprised at how little stuff I actually have personally with this being my job. I try to keep my stuff to a minimum as you can quickly end up hoarding stuff without realising! Having said that though, I’m perpetually looking for Pharaoh Sanders, Brian Eno and Wipers t-shirts, artists that I’m either unsure of whether any original tees exist or I have yet to find anything in my size.
Where will the brand go next?
We’ve got a couple of really exciting collaborations on the horizon with by far the biggest artists we’ve worked with to date. I’m really excited to work on those projects and share them with our respective audiences. I still have a big list of bands and artists I’d love to work with, so that’ll keep us busy. Early this year, we began to work with Heaven by Marc Jacobs and Aries, which has been sick. We’re keen to work with more brands globally that we respect and that we feel share our reference points and values. Scaling vintage presents some unique challenges, but I’m keen to see how far we can go. It would be nice to see the percentage of fashion industry sales allocated to resell or used items increasing year on year, and for Jerks™ to be playing its part in that transition.