"Ripped: T-Shirts from the Underground." Photo courtesy of Rizzoli

A lot has been written about the history of fashion, but what about when fashion itself is the medium of recording history?

That seems to be the message of "Ripped: T-Shirts from the Underground," a new book from Rizzoli that explores 30 years of "mostly post-punk" music history through a curated collection of vintage band T-shirts.

Author Cesar Padilla, owner of the legendary vintage store Cherry, selected 200 garments from his private collection for the book, which includes commentary from music and fashion figures like designer Betsey Johnson, Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore, and counter-cultural icon Lydia Lunch.

"These T-shirts represent the history of a musical movement that took place before the information era," Padilla told StyleList. "Many of these bands made, like, 50 T-shirts and threw them in a box. That's all they left behind."

Padilla says the collector can expect to pay between $50-$300 for these lightweight cultural artifacts. He is also working on two more T-shirt titles for Rizolli, chronicling the history of the sexual revolution, and heavy metal.

A selection of the T-shirts in "Ripped" are on display at New York's Acne Studios until April 8, where the book was launched this week.

Standing there among the hipsters drinking PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon), naturally, StyleList was moved to ask the author about the elusive nature of "cool," and what his book said about it.

"As Lydia Lunch says in the forward to the book, you can't buy cool," Padilla said evenly. "Cool isn't for sale."

Vintage Patti Smith Group and Sonic Youth tees from the new "Ripped" book. Photos courtesy of Rizzoli