The hospitality merch boom is well and truly on. Has been for quite a while, to be fair – longer if you include the Happy Meal toy or those puzzling cardboard crowns at Hungry Jack's that probably make more sense abroad where the fast-food giant is known as Burger King.
But two things have changed recently. 1. It's now absolutely everywhere. 2. It's getting very good. Bonus third thing: the combination of things one and two means the punters are loving it, happily staking their personal brands on the venues that speak to them.
The model is not new: financially support the thing you like, broadcast that support from your torso, advertise personal affinity for the thing you like, potentially attract like-minded mate. Only now, where we were once plugging bands and films, it's pasta and sandwiches.
Joey Kellock of Melbourne's 1800 Lasagne knows a thing or two about things one and two (and maybe three? I'm confused).
His "Lasagne Sport" collection – premium tracksuits that leverage our current fixation with "La Australiana" (Leonardo's Pizza Palace, Rocco's Bologna Discoteca, Good Gnocchi et al.) in lampooning fashion houses such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren – underpins the mirth of the movement, which would appear boundless. You won't go far in Melbourne's inner north without clocking that mirth, nor the saucy sportswear.
"They're representing brands that they trust, and that they're happy to promote and endorse," says Kellock.
"You wear a lasagne shirt, you're promoting social awareness, you're promoting equality, you're promoting really good lasagne, you're promoting a good-looking shirt – it's a no brainer."
"People are really selective about who they endorse – well, they should be. No one's gonna f---in' walk down the street wearing a Kentucky Fried Chicken shirt, no matter how good it looks."
The body is nature's billboard. We all have one, and if you've any ad space to spare on yours, and you live in Victoria, consider plugging it now with any of the following.
Leonardo's Pizza Palace
Leonardo's especially needs your torso because it nearly burnt to the ground earlier this year. Fortunately, nobody was injured in a kitchen fire that has kept the cult fave shuttered since June, but the damage has neutered operations for the time being.
Regardless, it's an establishment you want to rep – its success built on the thin line between satire and celebration. Long-sleeve tees featuring its signature pepperoni pie come in red and black and will run you $50, with short-sleeves and totes available at $40 and $45 respectively. leonardospizzapalace.com.au
The Don. Lots to consider here. From the 1800 Lasagne Sport range there is a fetching, matching red tracksuit. That's the premium gear, and that's $100 per piece.
Long-sleeves, crew neck sweaters and tees feature the iconic 1800 logo, but the piece de resistance is a black short-sleeve riff on wrestling idol Stone Cold Steve Austin's "AUSTIN 3:16" t-shirt, but it's "LASAGNE 3:16.'
1800 Lasagne has given tonnes to the community in recent times, including its red-heart "Hang in there Melbourne/Sydney" poster and billboard campaign that continues to fill us with hope. It would only be right. 1800lasagne.com.au
One of the leading lights of the city's deli sandwich renaissance also happens to be a merchandising powerhouse. Fans of Nico's Cubano sandwich can now wear its ingredients on their back in a fetching blue short-sleeve tee, but fans of Nico's in general can show their love with an utterly shark-jumping Nico's Original soccer jersey. Available in both "home" and "away" colourways, they come in a breathable polyester sports fabric featuring embroidered patches and are $80 apiece. nicos.melbourne
Smith and Daughters
Vegan sensation Smith and Daughters probably has the most complete merch inventory of the lot. Highlights include incredibly intricate lucky charms – one of which is a mini bung of the restaurant's vegan salami – logo stickers, hats and basketball shorts.
And if you're into the contorted graphic design of black metal merch, then boy, do they have the long-sleeve tee for you ($46.99, right). smithanddaughters.com
The beloved Lebanese institution is known for its moreish halloumi pies, but has also been quietly pumping out some brilliant, understated merch for some time. White and blue short-sleeve t-shirts don the bread baron's logo and go for $35, but what you're really after is the footy-style A1 beanie – an early spring steal at $20. a1bakery.com.au
Riffing on Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, band-style merch was never not on the cards for the cherished Collingwood pizza joint. A three-tee range of long- and short-sleeves will run you between $35 and $50 per item, and is led by a white tee depicting a hellish creature sliding a fresh pie into an anthropomorphised pizza oven. Sounds like you. thinslizzy.com
The Japanese-inspired multi-hyphenate is one the most consistently tasteful, and tasty, fixtures in Melbourne. Part daytime diner, part lifestyle market, founders Meg and Zenta Tanaka clearly have an eye for design, reflected in their clean line of Cibi-branded merch.
There's short-sleeve t-shirts, there's aprons, there's towels. But the oversized denim tote is a thing of wonder, and well worth its $135 price tag. If you want to say "sophistiqué" without curling out your lips and butchering the accent, you buy this bag. cibi.com.au