Why Concert T-Shirts Matter

If the kidlets who are steadily replacing me (I’m 30) as people who go to shows and care about music (I really don’t, anymore, because I’m suddenly just so, so tired) want to make Facebook “likes” and Twittered and Tumbled links to music videos the new talisman of music fandom, that is their problem. And, word to kidlets: that is dumb. Get some kind of vetting system in place, and fast, because it’s too hard to tell who is cool and who is just good at the Internet.

Once, before the long and dark era of fashionized and re-sold vintage concert shirts and vintage-styled concert shirts (objectively the worst), a concert t-shirt with a band you actually liked on it was the way that you publicly aligned yourself. It was critical that you listened to them, bought their music and went to see them, and here was your proof.

Like anything else good and true, it cycled downward (Jennifer Aniston wore an MC5 shirt on Friends, which was a cool adult moment for me, because I realized I could still feel apoplectic about something), and now I kind of think it is kind of adorable. I mean, had I not been over-informed by zines and my Svengali-friends about why it wasn’t OK to buy them anywhere other than at a show or a record store (a record store), I would have definitely been one of the girls who bought a G’n’R shirt at the mall. Like, definitely. Have you seen that logo? So balling.

Anyway. Pre-the-internet, concert shirts were especially important to nerds and post-nerds – I’m somewhere in between, in that I can quote a lot of The Simpsons but don’t know enough to even place at a Simpsons trivia night – because it’s crucial to communicate that you know things about music when you look like you read too much.

Concert shirts are especially-especially important for music nerdy girls who are older than, like, 27, because we are compelled by a maniacal, feminist need to compete with men about taste and cultural knowledge, but also aren’t usually up for swinging our pink dicks around about catalog numbers and release dates, or participating in Facebook “Like”-athons. There is the option of being a New World kind of fan and posting old videos on Tumblr, but the only videos that ex-fan-girls tend to post are Mariah Carey or really sexist hip-hop (so good).

I was good at choosing shirts: even though I love/d the Smashing Pumpkins, I had enough foresight to know that the “ZERO” motif was simple boy-retardation, and the squished-heart logo made me feel weird. I was right. Nobody wears their old Pumpkins shirts. Anywaysies, here are my favorites:

New Order

My very first concert t-shirt was a red New Order number that became mine for some reason when I was either six, seven or eight years old. It’s likely that one of my much older sisters passed it on because it was bizarrely short, almost cropped, which is the opposite of what a concert shirt should be (see: Joy Division.) There is no pic of this shirt on Google Image because it was so real, I guess, but here’s another one (which I also have, but procured in a more generic way much later).


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  • flawedsquares


  • http://brianburke.tumblr.com/ brian burke

    damn, sweet unicorns shirt….

  • Boisij

    will you marry me?

  • http://twitter.com/KelleyHoffman kelley hoffman

    the unicorns! an interview i did with them in college was my first clip ever. good mems

  • Newwave84

    I wear my smashing pumpkins (Adore and Melancollie) t-shirts … I'm male … And I'm 27. Does that me retarded? Lol

  • Dee


  • Jordan

    Kate Carraway is awesome. A great addition to the TC fold.

  • Guest

    This was a cute read, to say the least. The superficiality of the stories wasn't what bothered me (since, after all, wearing a specific piece of/band clothing to brand yourself is a superficial act in it of itself, so the correlation between the two is seemingly excusable). But I do feel this entire post was so poorly written it was shocking – especially with the multiple reminders of the writer's age. I would've have appreciated writing more sophisticated than this underdeveloped email correspondence.

  • guest

    literally right before reading this I was contemplating how I will no longer wear my perma-dirty-and-faded mid '90s screeching weasel shirt and feel cool… good thing I've still got those old bad religion and mr t experience shirts.

  • ZaneEatsWorld

    Liked everything but the word “kidlets.”

    ugh, fuck that word.

  • http://twitter.com/straponheart Evan Hatch

    i noticed you said “like” where i think you meant to say 'like'. perhaps you forgot that you are posting on thought catalog.


    So what are you going to auction these shirts off or what? A big auction to raise money for TC to take out an ad in Variety. I want the Joy Division shirt.

  • http://twitter.com/MissKimball misskimball

    does anyone know how I can restore this original 1988 daydream nation shirt? It's gone twice as big as it should be and thinner than paper

    • bing bong

      burn it, asshole

      • http://twitter.com/MissKimball misskimball

        I'll burn it with plenty of gasoline right next to your face, fucktard

  • http://phmadore.com P. H. Madore

    I just went for the Epitaph green shirt when I went to a BR show in 2003. Because I loved the whole catalog in those days, minus fucking Leftover Crack.

  • Pinkie

    Re: Bad Religion-
    ” this is not a great band, by any stretch,”

    Insta-fail. They're the best.

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