The rock band tee: there are few fashion vices that so clearly convey such a large number of demographic and personality characteristics at a glance. The band’s name, how old the t-shirt looks and, most importantly, how you accessorize it, are signs that scream “I was a troubled teenager” or “I want to be cool forever”.
Band tees are one of the biggest threats to my minimalism aspirations. That and blazers, but that’s a different topic.
A Brief History of Rock Band T-Shirts
My first rock band t-shirt dreams were quickly shattered by the exorbitant price tags of the early 2000’s (I was also 12, so any price tag would have been out of my reach). Back then, you had to go to the band’s slow website and hope they would sell an overpriced t-shirt in your size to show your unmatched good taste in music to the world.
Nowadays, everyone from H&M, Brandy Melville, Forever21, Urban Outfitters and even Kohl’s have jumped on the t-shirt designs copyright laws to be able to offer their own designs of iconic band tees like Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Metallica and AC/DC (I never really liked them, but I like AC/DC t-shirts). My hunch is that the openness of copyright holders to give away their designs so they are produced in mass by fast fashion companies has increased in the past few years. It’s easy money and we all know clothes are disposable anyway, so they will have many opportunities to license their brand image in the future.
If you are looking for a vintage rock band t-shirt, I would turn to eBay to find a used one, but sizes and selection are limited. Etsy is a good place to find them too if you’re not afraid of a good amount of copyright infringement. The same can be said for Amazon, I just find it hard to believe that in such open marketplaces where anyone can sell anything, copyright laws are strictly observed. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but it is something you should know if your citizen obligations keep you up at night.
I found three brands that keep me up at night but from the unstoppable inner desire to buy an irrational number of t-shirts I don’t really need. Here they are.
Junk Food Clothing
Junk Food is a brand founded in 1998 by Blaine Halvorson. Vintage and music nostalgia apparel is one way to describe what this brand is all about. What do Mickey Mouse, Pink Floyd, and Budweiser have in common? They are all part of the Junk Food graphic tee repertoire, t-shirts with a healthy dose of Americana, 80’s music bands and beer for about $40 a piece seems like a good deal to me.
In 2013 Blaine Halvorson founded MadeWorn, his luxury brand featuring one of a kind, handcrafted pieces. MadeWorn clothes have been treated with sandpaper, fire, and dirt to give them that genuine vintage look Think jeans with holes but taken to a whole new level. They are about $160. Because that is rational.
I am very torn on this one because, on one hand, this is sort of an extreme expression of the concept of slow fashion: caring for things, wearing them for a long time, putting value in fewer really precious garments as opposed to buying a lot of cheap ones. The economist and concert tee lover in me, on the other hand, thinks you must earn the right to wear a cool worn band t-shirt by ACTUALLY OWNING ONE FOR YEARS AND WEARING IT A LOT. Although I am not sure about how to reconcile those two feelings just yet, I do know I like the work very much and if it wasn’t for the price tag, I would own a couple already (Pink Floyd & Blondie). I also applaud the business model and his ability to find such a specific niche to shake fashion and music lovers’ pockets in a rugged, artsy kind of way.
In this video from The Wall Street Journal, Blaine explains some of his processes and the logic behind his brand. He mentions that he wants to create a pair of pants that “looks like it’s been worn for 30 years” without having to actually wear it for 30 years. I think this goes back to that sense of wearing your favorite clothes for a long time until they break and you can’t wear them anymore, but it does feel a bit like cheating, right?
You can find MadeWorn at Revolve, Net-A-Porter, Shopbop, Barney’s New York and Forward.
This brand might very well be just a high-schooler’s experiment to see how much people are willing to pay for fashion names. I don’t care. I want them all. Bleached Goods are parody band t-shirts that have adapted iconic band logos and imagery to depict fashion designers and luxury brands. Dior, Chanel, Maison Margiela, Balenciaga, and Versace are some of the Bleached Goods designs inspired in bands like AC/DC. Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Slayer, and Misfits. If you think you’ve never heard of something so snobby, superficial and pointless, you might be right. What you might now understand is the fashion industry’s propensity to repurpose pop culture in a sacrilegious way and remove all meaning from once coveted cultural symbols.
The price to demonstrate you are both a music AND fashion connoisseur? $65 and up.
I hope my rendition helped you define your stances on rock band t-shirts. I know it didn’t help me one bit.