Controversy

An examination of band T-shirt etiquette: It’s…complicated.

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

The problems began as soon as Roz showed up for a round of drinks before a New Order concert. She appeared at the table wearing a vintage “New Order Substance 1987” T-shirt. Julia was the first to pounce.

“Uncool!” she exclaimed, aghast. “Shirt-to-show faux pas! You’re not supposed to wear a band’s T-shirt to a show featuring that band! That’s terrible form. It looks like you’re trying too hard. Rookie error! You need to go home and change.”

Roz was nonplussed. “What? I can’t show my support and my years-long love for the group? I kept this 30-year-old T-shirt in pristine condition specifically for nights like this!”

They both looked at me. Where did I stand on the shirt-to-show debate? I stammered something non-commital but was saved by the people at the next table who had opinions to express the matter — and on both sides. Then the waitress got involved. An hour later, nothing was resolved but at least no tables were toppled.

Turns out there are a series of (mostly) unwritten rules about when to wear band T-shirts, who can wear them, and why. The proper etiquette has never been standardized, which means that it’s easy to run afoul of someone’s interpretation of these rules.

First, a few facts about such shirts.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38569 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.