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We Need Rules When It Comes to Who Should Wear Band T-Shirts (Plus an Update of What Wall Street 1 Percenters Can Buy)

This guy wearing this t-shirt is not only inappropriate but wrong. Very, very wrong. Morally reprehensible, even.

Justin Bieber Metallica t-shirt

Call me petty and pedantic, but I’m tired of seeing people wear t-shirts of bands they know nothing about. One of the first things I’ll do when I finally ascend to the level of philosopher-king is seize Ramones t-shirts from everyone who can’t name a single song title. Maybe they should just wear GB Labels t-shirts instead? It would make them look less foolish.

We need some rules regarding the wearing of band t-shirts. The Syndey Morning Herald agrees. They outline a series of what should be unbreakable rules regarding the wearing of band merch.

  1. Do not wear a t-shirt from an artist you don’t follow. That just doesn’t make sense. Maybe just stick to cat t-shirts. Everyone loves cats. It’s not like anyone will question you on how many cat breeds you know. But they might if you wear a band t-shirt without knowing anything about that artist.
  2. Band t-shirts are NOT simple fashion accessories designed to make you look cool. You’re just patronizing real fans of the artist. And you’re not fooling us, anyway. We know that you are not one of us.
  3. Understand that your image and reputation cannot be repaired by wearing a shirt from a cool band. (I’m looking at you, Bieber and all you Kardashians. And Fergie? You’re not fooling anyone with that Iron Maiden shirt.)
  4. Band t-shirts do NOT go with luxury labels. Stop it, Gucci. Doesn’t anyone remember the disaster that was grunge haute couture?

ACDC Gucci copy

What else needs to be added to this list?

Anne suggests the following:

  • If your parents or a family member attended a concert performed by a band, you may wear their concert t-shirt.
  • If you or your parents own original vinyl pressing of band, you may wear a band related t-shirt.
  • If you have at least one complete album of a band in your music library, you may wear a band t-shirt.


On a related note, Barney’s, the high-end men’s store is now offering Black Flag and Joy Division t-shirts for $350. Sure they’re crafted of a “brushed Japanese cotton blend”–but WTF, man?

Barney's Black Flag t-shirtBarney's Joy Division t-shirt

Oh, and there’s more. Who wants a $12o0 metal hoodie?

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 38516 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

41 thoughts on “We Need Rules When It Comes to Who Should Wear Band T-Shirts (Plus an Update of What Wall Street 1 Percenters Can Buy)

  • Amen.

    When did The Misfits logo become a fashion statement?

    • back in the eighties, where were you

    • One day the Misfits were an obscure, defunct punk band from Lodi, New Jersey whose records were nearly impossible to find. The next day a guy in Metallica wore a Misfits t-shirt on one of their records. That was three decades ago, and ever since then, the Misfits logo has been a fashion statement.

  • I remember when flannel shirts suddenly went from $10 to $100 and up, when grunge suddenly became cool.
    “Look at me! I am a fashonista by spending $150 on a single flannel shirt when I could have got the same shirt at Value Village for $5.00 because it was on sale.”
    The Ramones logo (any of them) should not be worn by anyone who was born after the band disbanded in 1996. Name one song, besides Blitzkreig Bop or I Wanna Be Sedated, if you’re such a fan. Name any of the 8 members who played within the band at any point.
    (For the record, they are Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, CJ, Ritchie and Elvis)

    • My daughter is 13 and has outgrown three Ramones t-shirts in her life already. Some of us raise our children right. It has nothing to do with age or being born in 2003. She is a true fan and always will be.
      She would be highly offended if told that she had no right to wear her Ramones tshirt or merch from any other band that she worships (Blondie, Metallica, Nirvana) because she was born in 2003.
      An yes, she can name more than half of those 8 members who played with the Ramones at some point in time.

      • Cool buddy, and so is your daughter! I raised my own son the same way. He grew up hearing all the good stuff, and now he makes his own choices, and it’s not crap!

    • W T F are you talking about , how small minded can you be. Thankfully, the rest of us understand that if you have no connection to past music you cant really appreciate new stuff. I loved the Ramones, Misfits, The Clash etc. etc. and some time will wear a T of one of these bands and love to educate young people about what came before making a new fan,whats the problem. I was born after Elvis but had a T of him in my pre teens because that was part of my musical evolution, Grow The Fuck Up

    • I hope to god this is a fucking joke post! Are you serious? You’re saying a person born after the band broke up shouldn’t wear the shirt… SCREW YOU! That’s like saying I can’t listen to Queen because I was born after Freddie passed away. Why? I still like the band and you’re telling me if the person born after the band broke up knows what blitzkrieg or I wanna be sedated are they still can’t wear it? Again screw you! This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard and I’ve heard some dumb comments.

  • Silver lining: makes the posers stand out, which informs us all about who is a waste of time.

    • POSERS, how old are you 15, I used to go on about that shit too, till I was about 20 maybe, but then some thing happened …………..I grew up, is it too much to ask the same of you people

  • Called a young guy out once for wearing a Skrewdriver t-shirt in a grocery store. I asked him if he knew anything about the band or what they stood for. He didn’t have a clue….

    • A SKREWDRIVER shirt? He’s lucky he wasn’t pummelled into a pulp.

      • Yep, I was actually more concerned for his welfare than his support of a racist rock group. He seemed genuinely shocked and disappeared pretty quick. I like to think it was the last time it ever saw the light of day…

  • I want to say band shirts should be banned from the fast fashion hipster stores (Urban Outfitters, Forever 21) but I’d be lying if I don’t take advantage when they just happen to have a Pink Floyd shirt available to replace an old one.

  • It kind of irks me that the pride movement has co-opted Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirts stating it’s obviously secretly gay. Even though the album cover was designed years before the movement adopted the rainbow as their symbol of identification.

  • Do the bands themselves share (some of) the blame for the non-fans buying/ wearing their merch? I am looking at bands that license the shirts to places like Urban Planet or the Gap.Sears can’t just print off a bunch of Green Day shirts, someone from the band’s camp had to okay that deal. Same goes for the Ramones, The Strokes, Misfits, The Clash, KISS to name a few.

  • I think a person is free to wear the shirt if they can pick up an instrument or a mic and play/sing a song convincingly.

    Unfortunately, that probably means Biebs is allowed to wear that Metallica shirt (he probably is actually a fan, and can play several instruments), which I believe says more about Metallica than most people want to admit.

  • Are we allowed to buy our 6 year olds band t shirts? I want to get mine a Led Zep and the older one a Hendrix t shirt.

    I hope to use this none too subtle strategem to make my kids love real rock. I love hopeless causes.

  • When the Ramones first came out, I bought their debut album. My buddy and I decided right then and there we were going to emulate their appearance, so we both got leather jackets and started wearing t-shirts, jeans, and white sneakers as our regular apparel. At the time we were the only two guys in Niagara Falls who looked like that, for about two years! Everyone else was into the disco look. Yukkk!!! We were rockers and wanted rock! No gold chains and shirts unbuttoned to the navel for us. Wankers!!!

  • I agree the most important rule is rule #1. It just doesn’t make sense to wear it otherwise.
    I’ve been to Forever 21 with my girlfriend quite a lot, and I’ve seen shirts with bands like: Nirvana, Aerosmith, The Ramones. And I wonder, how many of them actually know these bands? Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t. I’m just hoping it isn’t the latter.

  • Meh – poseurs gonna pose. Plus a lot of these bands have a few mega-hits that appeal to everyone. I would more like to be saved from the condescending aficionados who act like the music scene is their personal property. In this sad world, artists are somehow defiled if they enjoy any popularity outside of the snob set. Please free us from comments like, “I am going but only for the openers. I am leaving before headliner comes on.” My other favourite, “If they play any new songs I am walking out.”

  • From my understanding beiber is actually sort of a metalhead… if you search his name on It brings up a few articles and even an interview

  • I’m torn.
    I can understand many of the points raised, but what about simply enjoying a particular design or image?
    I was never a big Iron Maiden fan but really loved their mascot, Eddie. Had a few of their shirts when I was a teen.
    Not sure how that fits here.

  • Side note: no one can ever buy a CBGB t-shirt ever again, seeing as how it’s closed and all. (Just go to

  • Boy are you guys gonna regret all this shit you wrote IF you ever grow up

  • There’s a lot of sanctimonious crap being tossed around here…
    Really? I can’t wear something just because I like the look of it? Move to Syria, jackass. Besides, maybe seeing “the Biebs” in a Metallica shirt or Kim Kardashian in a Rancid /CRASS/Black Flag crested denim jacket is the catalyst to opening someone’s mind to all kinds of sounds and scenes that they can identify with.

    • Well said Bedrock tha mighty. I also think it’s pretentious to assume that because “the Biebs” peddles a certain type of product that he is obligated to consume that same type of product. “Music is art” and “Music is business” are both equally valid statements.

      I’ve been to about 4 or 5 Gwar concerts over the years but have never purchased a single piece of their music. Why? Because I don’t really like their music and yet their concerts were about as much fun as a person can possibly have at a concert. By this logic, should I have been barred from attending these shows?

  • I can’t wait until my 3 year old daughter is a little older and actually fits into the Rush R40 tour t-shirt I bought her…..while she sat next to me at the show air-drumming away!

  • My band t-shirts are souvenirs from shows I’ve been to. The idea of going out and intentionally buying a band t-shirt at a retail store is a bit odd to me – well, unless you’re 15 and just really getting into music, as I remember buying band t-shirts at that age, but not since (bragging rights alert) my first Ramones concert in 1980 where I bought the tour t-shirt and got my poster signed (both of which I still have). But oddness aside, I don’t care who wears what or whether they know or care about the band they’re sporting on their chest. It’s a bit eye roll-worthy, but Ramones, Misfits, Joy Division, and Black Flag logos on t-shirts have been go-to “alt cred” wear for the last 25 years – actually even longer in the Misfits case – and it was obvious back then that a lot of people wearing them weren’t really fans of the music.

  • 100% BS from a grouchy music nerd.

    You know what’s worse than a music poseur?

    A music elitist.

    It’s Ill-spirited snobbery.

    How do you know Justin beiber isn’t a Metallica fan?

    How do you know that kid wearing a ramones shirt doesn’t know a single song?

    Did you actually ask or are you just assuming? And if you did ask did they insist you show your Music-Sheriff badge first?

    And if they didn’t why do you care??

    Clearly, like all music-elitists, it’s to feel superior.

    If i saw I young kid in a NIN shirt I’d be quite pleased. Would it matter that they only know head like a hole or closer and never listened to “the fragile”? No.

    Maybe one day they will.

    The shirt is a step in the right direction.

    my wife only recently discovered joy division and is slightly obsessed.

    I’d happily buy her a $350 boutique shirt.

    You know who else would have bought something like that? David Bowie. Freddy Mercury, Mick Jaggar.. etc etc. (ie people who actually make music).

    Your attitude is profoundly un-rock and roll

    You know what IS rock and roll?

    Wearing what you want and not giving a ^#%^ what anyone thinks.

    • ^^^ yes! Thank you! 100% agree. Love the ongoing history of new music, do not love this post.

      Its great that places like H & M make band shirts that use nicer softer material and have better cuts and fits (and change rooms so you can try before you buy). I have a bunch of band shirts from concerts or more official “band” stores. But there mostly made of horrible thick fabric, have an unflattering boxy fit and look and feel uncomfortable or I had to guess my size at a concert and ended up with something that doesn’t fit right, so I rarely wear them. But my nirvana and Ramones shirt from h & m are super comfortable, flattering and I actually wear them on a regular basis (a good feature for clothing items). I don’t care if some people who know nothing about the band just buys the shirt for the look or if people assume I know nothing about the bands because my shirt has a more fashionable fit than a typical band shirt. I’m just happy I can now show my appreciation for the bands I like without being uncomfortable in my clothes.

      And you can’t assume someone doesn’t like a band just because they don’t fit the bands typical fan look. You listen with your ears not your “look”. I once went to an AC DC concert in a rainbow hippy looking dress because it was hot and that was what I felt like wearing that day. Had an awsome time enjoying the music (also bought an ill fitting shirt that I’ve maybe worn once over about a 6+ year period) and what I was wearing didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the show. Should I have dressed more metal or rock in dark colors and been hot and uncomfortable just so some music snob didn’t judge me by my fashion choice for the show? Because that doesn’t feel very rock and roll me to.

  • It’s an interesting discussion. I have heard it said that people shouldn’t wear band t-shirts or sports jerseys above a certain age as well, and that just seems silly to me. Age is just a number and a shirt is just a shirt. That being said, there are definitely a lot of poseurs out there, and the fact that some boutiques sell t-shirts that expensive is just weird. But Bieber looks like a poseur no matter what he’s wearing.

    I know for myself that I definitely follow rule # 1 – I won’t wear a band shirt unless I’m a fan. But we can’t really tell who is a fan simply based on how they look. For example I know Fergie has worked with Slash before and I’m pretty sure has stated that she likes rock.

    At the end of the day, anything that promotes or makes rock & roll music seem cool is okay by me. Especially these days.

  • This post… this gave me such a headache man.

  • Honestly, it is just a t-shirt. As for likelihood of someone knowing Aerosmith, Metallica or Journey songs is pretty likely. They are some of the biggest bands of all time. Sure, they might not “know the band” or more than a few songs, but who cares? Also, the “look” of the person (age, gender, race etc.) really has nothing to do with the likelihood that they know a band. Hell, I listen to a HUGE variety of music, a lot of it rock. BUT, because I am a young adult female it will be assumed that I like the t-shirt not the band. If you asked me the last song I listened to you’d probably be surprised (Peace of Mind -Blue Cheer). My point is that music elitists are annoying too because why should someone have to know every single album or song to like a band? They shouldn’t have to.

  • You know what’s hardcore? Not giving a shit who wears what T-shirt.


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