Free Shipping on Orders Over $35

History of Shakedown and Fan Made T-Shirts at Grateful Dead Shows

For decades, Grateful Dead concerts were more than just music events. They were cultural phenomena, drawing crowds of die-hard fans known as Deadheads. One of the most iconic aspects of Deadhead culture was the fan-made t-shirts sold at the concerts. These shirts were more than just fashion statements—they were a way for fans to express their love for the band and their connection to the Deadhead community.

The history of fan-made t-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts dates back to the band's early days in the 1960s. At the time, the Grateful Dead were playing in small clubs and venues on the West Coast, building a loyal following of fans who would follow them from show to show. These early fans began making their own t-shirts to wear to the concerts, often featuring psychedelic designs and images inspired by the band's music.



As the Grateful Dead's popularity grew, so did the demand for fan-made t-shirts. Fans began setting up makeshift stands outside the concerts, selling their homemade shirts to other fans. These vendors became known as "lot rats," and their stands became a fixture at Dead shows. Over time, the designs on the shirts became more elaborate and intricate, incorporating iconic images from the band's history, as well as quotes and lyrics from their songs.

In the 1980s, the Grateful Dead began to take notice of the fan-made t-shirt phenomenon. Rather than trying to shut down the vendors, the band decided to embrace them, allowing them to sell their shirts inside the concert venues. This led to the creation of the official Grateful Dead Merchandising Department, which was tasked with overseeing the sale of fan-made merchandise at the concerts.



The Merchandising Department began working with the lot vendors to ensure that the quality of the merchandise being sold was up to the band's standards. They also began licensing the use of the Grateful Dead's logo and other images to select vendors, in order to ensure that the band was receiving a portion of the profits.

Today, fan-made t-shirts continue to be a staple of Grateful Dead concerts. While the lot vendors are now required to obtain licenses to sell their merchandise, the spirit of the fan-made t-shirt lives on. Fans continue to create unique designs and intricate artwork inspired by the Grateful Dead's music, and the shirts themselves have become collector's items, with some rare designs fetching thousands of dollars on the secondary market.

Fan-made t-shirts have been a part of Grateful Dead culture since the band's earliest days. What began as a way for fans to express their love for the music has become a cultural phenomenon, with intricate designs and artwork inspired by the band's history and iconic imagery. While the way these shirts are sold has changed over the years, their spirit remains the same, a testament to the enduring legacy of the Grateful Dead and the passionate community of fans they inspired.