Looking back, I can't remember if Blue Grape offered shirts in sizes other than XXL and up, but based on the shirts from back then that my brother and I still have...I think Blue Grape estimated that the average size of a metal fan was roughly 5'2" tall and 5'6" wide. Below is an accurate computer rendering of what I looked like wearing my Blue Grape Obituary shirt circa 1992.
Is that the Liberty Bell? No, just Lucho wearing his Obituary shirt.
Notice how my feet stuck out at the bottom, making me look like a scale model of the Liberty Bell. This attractive look basically made my feet look like the the part of a bell that swings like a pendulum as I walked, striking the actual bell/shirt. That part of a bell is called a "clapper", but I didn't know if anyone would know that. Anyway, I really don't know why we kept buying their wares. At one point, we actually placed such a large order that they sent us a gift certificate, with which we bought (I'm not kidding) a small, t-shirt shaped sign for my brother's new car. The sign was just like one of those "baby on board" signs, including the suction cup, but was of a tiny Sepultura shirt, which said "Tour 1989" on the back. I would love to go on and on making fun of them for producing such a stupid artifact, but we were dumb enough to buy it. My brother had it on the back window of his car for some time, until the heat began to melt and warp one of the sleeves...thus enlarging it, much like an actual Blue Grape t-shirt, or their coveted Prong hockey jerseys.
When I first decided to write a little something about Blue Grape, I thought I would find ample information about the once-leading purveyor of metal related attire. Not so. Like the Incas, who disappeared and only left behind Machu Picchu for us to admire, all that remains of Blue Grape are some ill-fitting circus tents in my closet and some faint memories. While I found several phone numbers online for the now forgotten company, all were disconnected. Their site is now down, a mere memory of a once great shirt empire. Similarly, their office (see photo below) which was located on Broadway in New York City, is now probably vacant. I picture tumbleweed rolling around the empty cubicles, as a single Prong hockey jersey still hanging proudly on the wall.
Blue Grapes former world headquarters were located over this Levi's store in Manhattan. Prime real estate for a company that sold Deicide keychains and shirts.
I found one posting of a job at Blue Grape from 2004. $50,000 a year for a Senior Production Director. I also found an interesting interview with Felix Sebacious, then VP at Blue Grape in which he discusses how Blue Grape started to make panties, and how he was able to get Glen Benton to sign the merchandise deal for Deicide. Sebacious recalls:
"When he finally agreed to a meeting time, it could only be at 7 a.m. on a Sunday in the backyard of his house. Before discussing his contract, he insisted that I help him give his lizard an injection of antibiotics. We went through this whole bonding experience that included holding the thing down and giving it the shot, but in the end, we were able to get the contract signed quite easily, and it turned out to be a rather lucrative merchandising deal."
As interesting as I found this interview, I was left wanting more. What had happened to this once great empire? I had way too many questions. Was it their horrendous sizing strategy that had finally put them out of business? Did the managers at the factories where Sepultura patches were made get carpal tunnel from endlessly beating the Filipino boys who made those artifacts? Was "Sebacious" a real last name? I had to keep investigating.
In the past, I have written about my memories of long-forgotten merchants in the world of metal such as Wild Rags Records. After writing that post, I ended up with more questions than answers, though our readers did manage to fill in some blanks via their comments. Like Blue Grape, Wild Rags largely fell off the map suddenly. In Wild Rags' case it was mostly as a result of having peaked before the internet boom. Not content simply letting the whole thing go, I thought I should contact a friend of mine who is in the very business that Blue Grape was in, merchandise and licensing. Even from such an industry insider, I was only able to gather a tiny bit of information. Blue Grape was bought out by Bravado just a few years back. They had started to license some non-metal brands, and after being bought out, all those other licenses were dumped. Sadly, this is all the information I was able to gather. Do any readers have any more information, or perhaps stories about their ill-sized Blue Grape merch?