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Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Example of an officially licensed Harley-Davidson tee.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Example of an unofficial "bootleg" tee not licensed by Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Vintage tees used as rags by Eric Kvatek's father.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Eric Kvatek with Honda CB750 motorcycle in 1995.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

One of Eric's photos from Cambodia in the 1990s that got him noticed by Japanese denim brand 45rpm.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Phnom Penh late 1990s.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Eric Kvatek in Cambodia in the late 1990s.

Harley-Davidson vs. Japan with Eric Kvatek

Indonesia 1990s.

This week, we’re on with renowned photographer and former vintage dealer / cigarette security guard Eric Kvatek. After getting an initial lucky break, Eric has shot for everyone from 45rpm, Strongarm, Battenwear, W’menswear, Holubar, Heddels, and most notably all the books for Japanese brand Kapital.

One of his passions from his collecting days is printed t-shirts, specifically Harley-Davidson t-shirts from their xenophobic anti-Japan era of the 1970s and 80s. As the US manufacturing economy waned and thousands of blue collar Americans were out of work, Harley lashed out with a series of both authorized and bootleg t-shirts aimed at their Japanese competitors and the Japanese people in general.

Eric and David talk through the story of how these shirts came into existence and the racist and violent effect they had on Asian-Americans, including Chinese-American Vincent Chin who was beaten to death by white Chrysler auto workers. Check out the gallery of tees and from Eric’s collection above.

You can also follow Eric on Instagram @eric_kvatek or visit his website kvatek.com. As always, you can get a 10% discount at the Heddels Shop with code BLOWOUT including a recent restock of Teamster Tees. If you have any questions you’d like us to answer, topics to cover, or people to talk to, email us at [email protected]. Also help us out by dropping a review! Listen on the embedded player above or subscribe for early access on the following platforms:


All images courtesy Eric Kvatek.