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

[This was my weekly column for – 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.

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