Weekly survey: How many songs should you know before you can wear a band’s t-shirt?

Last week, a survey appeared out of the UK about band t-shirts. (Read about it here.) One of the questions they asked was “How many songs must you know by an artist before you can wear one of their shirts?”

This is a contentious question because so many people will wear a band t-shirt as some kind of fashion statement rather than as a way of supporting the artist or showing their fandom. I mean, how many Ramones or Metallica t-shirts have you seen on people who have no idea who those bands are? They just like the logo and know that there’s a cool factor involved.

The respondents to this survey say that you should be able to name at least 10 songs before you can legitimately and without shame or hypocrisy wear a band’s t-shirt. What do you think?

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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5 thoughts on “Weekly survey: How many songs should you know before you can wear a band’s t-shirt?

  • I am terrible with song names but if you can hum or sing along with three tracks, preferably from more than one album, you are good. And of course, seen them live at least once.

  • So does that mean if you discover a new band at a concert, one that you’ve never heard before, you’re not allowed to support the band by buying one of their shirts, no matter how much you like them? Or are you not allowed to wear it until you can name enough of their songs? What if they’re an opening band who are just getting their legs, and only have one 9-track album under their belts? Can’t wear their shirt, because they don’t have 10 songs to name.

    I’m also terrible with song names, even if I’ve been listening to a band for years. Protest the Hero comes to mind. Seen them live multiple times, own all their albums, but no way I’d be able to rattle off 10 titles. Guess I have to stop wearing their shirts.

    Or not.

  • I used to gatekeep this sort of thing, but the older I get the more I side with “zero” being fine. I have a huge collection of concert shirts, but I’ve bought a bunch at thrift stores just because they look amazing graphically. I went to a Kendrick Lamar show and I saw a black guy who was dressed to the nines and wearing an old Metallica tour shirt which pulled the look together. I didn’t think or care for one second if the guy was a fan, what I saw was a guy who maybe saw the shirt as art or fashion and he made it his own. Culture is culture, and the more people celebrate music as something more than just music, the better we are for it.

    • I stopped gatekeeping when I left high school … but at that point I was grateful for anyone to have even heard of the music I was into lol. It was the era where nu-metal reigned supreme. Ugh.

  • I would have to say that it’s utterly stupid to wear a band shirt just because you think it either looks cool or you think it gives you some kind of street cred. Because it does the very opposite when someone engages you on it… but having said that, I have an amazing collection of shirts and I don’t get a lot of meaningful engagement these days (much to my chagrin).

    Someone will have to enlighten me on gatekeeping. I gather it’s something that mellows with age so I’m probably like most of you all in that regard. Higher expectations when younger, no concert shirts for shows you didn’t go to..kinda still feel that way but I’d break that one in a heartbeat for the right band and for the real deal! Repeatedly. Hypocrisy at its finest, for sure.

    As for newbies to a band, if they just *like” the band is good enough for me. As long as they are buying the merch and supporting the artist and not Hot Topic or Macy’s or something where the band isn’t going to see a dime, I think it’s a good thing. Thrift stores and yard sales..I waffle on but I have to okay them because hopefully that’s a gateway for them to going to shows or buying merch or supporting the artist in some way. (Plus I know what it’s like to be poor.)

    I have a Newcastle United shirt and I’ll be lucky if I get to the UK in my lifetime if things keep going the way they have been. It was a major thrift store score. It makes me happy and when we have ‘lets all wear (American) football shirts or sports shirts at work days, I am always unique!

    I think there are too many people in this world who try too hard to be something they aren’t and I find that sad. If people were just more honest with themselves and others, these wouldn’t even be topics of conversations except amongst the identity crisis laden youth.


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