Weekly Survey: The shirt-to-show controversy. This is FAR more contentious than I realized.

Last month, I met up with a couple of friends for dinner before a gig. Two of us looked in horror at the third member of our party who showed up wearing an old concert t-shirt from the band we were about to see that night.

“Shirt-to-show!” screamed one of us (not me). “You cannot do that. You can’t just go into your closet, pull out an old t-shirt from the band and then wear it to the gig. HIGHLY uncool.”

I had to agree. We almost sent her home to change.

The offender protested, of course. “There’s nothing wrong with wearing a favourite band t-shirt to the show by that band,” she sniffed, “It’s showing appreciation and devotion.”

The conversation soon devolved into something rather unseemly, attracting the attention of other diners. With neither wanting to back down, other patrons of the restaurant were drawn into the discussion. When polled about the shirt-to-show situation, opinion was pretty much straight down the middle. Nothing was settled.

I therefore bring the argument to you. Is shirt-to-show acceptable? Or should such a practice be shamed out of existence? Please weigh in. This is a question for the ages.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

33 thoughts on “Weekly Survey: The shirt-to-show controversy. This is FAR more contentious than I realized.

  • September 17, 2018 at 10:12 am
    Permalink

    Maybe I am just Old School, but I always wear an old concert shirt from the band.

    Reply
    • September 18, 2018 at 8:53 am
      Permalink

      I choose to just set my money on fire and use it to lite a flare where I’m standing, so the lead singer knows I appreciate his efforts.

      Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:12 am
    Permalink

    I don’t see a problem with it. Wearing a shirt adorned with the band’s logo, artwork and/or tour dates can show that you’re a fan of the band before the concert.
    The band will have merchandise you can buy to support them, but do you really just want to buy a shirt for $40 or more? If the shirt is more than just the band’s logo or tour date and has an intricate design on it, that is one thing. Pay the cost of a new shirt (or whatever merch), and enjoy the show.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:15 am
    Permalink

    Hi Alan! I’ll ask you this instead – is it acceptable to wear your favorite band’s t-shirt if you just purchased it at the venue the same evening of the concert?

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:22 am
    Permalink

    Nope nope nope. Long standing concert etiquette states that you don’t wear a shirt with the band you’re going to see on it. You either buy the new shirt at the merch table to update your wardrobe, or you wear a band that’s in the same vein or similar genre, but not a legacy shirt of who you’re seeing. Appreciate the new.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:25 am
    Permalink

    Always wear a band’s shirt to their show if you can; especially if it’s a local /small scale band or show. Is the controversy that you shouldn’t be wearing an old shirt, you must buy a new one? Or is it that it’s not cool to show you’re that big of a fan? I’d wear an old shirt and buy a new one if applicable.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:26 am
    Permalink

    I don’t see anything wrong with it, however I never do this. It has been tattooed into my brain that this should never be done. Appearntly this is uncool. If it is not cool to wear your shirt to the show, what about buying the shirt at the show and then wearing it? You would think this is the same thing, but I see it all the time. What does one do with the old shirt they had on? Do they wear 2 shirts the whole night? Maybe they wear a throwaway shirt?

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:42 am
    Permalink

    what?! This is a thing? I don’t understand? Why is it not ok to wear an old concert shirt from the same band to the latest concert? I’ve been going to U2 concerts for 20 years and part of the joy is seeing all the vintage concert shirts from Boy to present… It’s a communication starter between fans in line – oh I went to that show too!, or Damn I wish I could have gone to that concert! It shows a devotion to the band, in some cases a long running devotion 😀 My question has never been should I wear an old concert shirt, its always been WHICH one should I wear this time 😛

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:57 am
    Permalink

    I never realised this was a controversy. It’s stupid and very uncool to argue this. Wear what you want to a concert: you’ve bought the ticket.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 11:11 am
    Permalink

    So I shouldn’t wear my favorite sports team jersey to their game? I should wear some other team’s jersey? That’s what you are saying here.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 11:18 am
    Permalink

    Wear whatever you want. We live in a world in which there is too much judgement. Just do what you want to do,

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 11:18 am
    Permalink

    I had never heard of this being a problem until this moment. I did it (the only time I had the chance, actually) when I saw the JD Fortune edition of INXS. I wore my concert shirt from 1990’s X tour. Sorta nostalgia; sorta protest. 😉

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 11:44 am
    Permalink

    This sort of T-shaming might fly at TayTay and other pre-teen concerts.

    I usually wear a band’s older shirt to their concert if I have one. I often buy a new one while I am there (as long as it has my city and date on it, which is a different/worse problem).

    Reply
    • September 18, 2018 at 2:33 pm
      Permalink

      Exactly. No semi-intelligent person who understands the meaning of working for a living, would have any problem w wearing a ‘vintage T’ from a previous concert. It shows ur a true fan and support the band over time

      Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 11:44 am
    Permalink

    Seriously, this is a thing? I’ve seen the Foo Fighters live in concert 4 times (obviously, I’m a fan) and for the last three, I wore a concert shirt purchased at the previous show and I bought a shirt for the current tour. If anything, wearing a shirt from a previous tour indicates that you’ve been a fan for a longer time.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 12:12 pm
    Permalink

    Although a few of my friends claim this is bad form (most who are also in the broadcast industry, coincidentally), I have no problem with wearing a band’s shirt from an earlier concert to their show. The audience at the last Rush show I went to was around 80% Rush shirt wearers. It’s a pointless argument these days – every show I go to is full of people wearing the shirts they just bought at the merch table, anyway.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 12:13 pm
    Permalink

    Music snobbishness! Went to a Raptors game, so I wore my Raptors t-shirt. I don’t see the difference wearing a t-shirt of band I’m going to see in concert.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 12:32 pm
    Permalink

    Me, I’d usually buy a tour shirt and put it on for the show. If not, I’d be wearing another band shirt, preferably something relatable to the fans nearby. Like wearing an A7X shirt to a David Draiman show. Wearing an old shirt of the same band? I can’t say I’ve ever done that. I wouldn’t look down on others for it though.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 1:13 pm
    Permalink

    I’m a Deadhead. There’s nothing better than an old concert shirt to wear to a show. In fact, the older, the better!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 2:03 pm
    Permalink

    I have never worn a shirt from the band I was going to see because there are assumptions made by me. I assume that wearing a band shirt in general lets people know I listen to that band and enjoy them enough to buy a shirt. I assume that the same understanding could be deduced by the fact that I am in attendance at their concert. That presents me with an opportunity to advertise/show support for another band, that may grab someones attention and spark a discussion and lead to discovery of new music. Likewise could be said for a band shirt that someone else is wearing. I like to look at a crowd and see what other shirts are around and try to get a sense of what musical tastes are out there and into this band.
    I like the idea of wearing an old shirt to a new concert by the same band but I think for me it would have to be decades old. That makes the statement that you are a dedicated fan and stuck with the band through it all.
    As for the sports team analogy, I don’t think it sticks. You wear a sports team jersey to show support for your team. But the team is competing against another so there are at least two teams involved. At a concert, the band isn’t competing against anyone so I don’t feel it falls in the same category.

    But we have missed the secondary questions. Is it OK for the band members to wear their own shirts while onstage or is that self indulgent?

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm
    Permalink

    There are a few bands where it is acceptable or almost expected. Grateful Dead, Morrissey/Smiths and maybe New Order shows are full of people wearing their shirts. When I went to more shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s I always thought the rule was to wear the most obscure band shirt you own. Now, wouldn’t care.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm
    Permalink

    Any time I have worn a band’s t-shirt to their show, they have always seemed very appreciative of the support (if I happened to run into them pre or post-show). Sometimes it ellicits conversation about that tour.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 5:30 pm
    Permalink

    Dafuq? I’ve done both. Similar band / genre and older T from a previous tour. My only caveat is if I’m wearing the older shirt, I buy a new one from the current tour. It’s only reasonable to show ongoing support the band.

    I really don’t care if someone else feels differently. They’ll do what they want, I’ll do my thing.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm
    Permalink

    If Black Oak Arkansas actually do play up here again, I’m wearing the shirt I got 6 years ago from their website when I ordered the CD. If I don’t like the latest shirts a band has, I’ll definitely buy a CD or signed poster. Ten years from now I hope bands are able to autograph the stream I listen to or the code on my phone I got from buying the ticket so that I can reminisce ’bout the good old days!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2018 at 10:12 pm
    Permalink

    I am astounded that this is a thing! I don’t get how wearing a shirt of the band that you are seeing is anything but respectful. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t buying a shirt that night too, it shows that you love the band enough to pay to see them multiple times and buy their merchandise (possibly multiple times). Definitely a sign of respect and love to the band!

    Reply
  • September 18, 2018 at 6:32 am
    Permalink

    I think it’s OK, but it would be better if he/she is wearing the band’s current shirt. I would wear an old band shirt if I know that they won’t have my size on the merch bar or is sold out. If you attend any Pearl Jam concert from any festival, shirts would be sold out that fast.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2018 at 12:05 pm
    Permalink

    I tend to see the opposite argument – is wearing a different band shirt to a concert acceptable?
    (ie wearing a Nirvana shirt to a Pearl Jam concert).

    I’ll wear what I like – I wore a Soundgarden shirt when I saw Temple of the Dog, I’ve worn Pearl Jam to see Pearl Jam. NIN to NIN, QOTSA to The Darkness.

    Do what you want – If you wanna wear your best Weird Al shirt to see Slayer, go for it.

    Someone else mentioned it already, but whatever shirt you wear can be a potential conversation starter. And that’s not a bad thing, you already have one thing in common with that person: the band you are about to see.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm
    Permalink

    There to see the show, who cares what other people are wearing. I’ll wear what I want so stay outta my face!

    Reply
  • September 19, 2018 at 1:45 am
    Permalink

    I think it depends on the band, and thus the audience and further, what the band and the audience would deem as acceptable. Example a: anytime I’ve seen Pixies play, there is not a Pixies shirt to be found in a 10 mile radius of the venue. The band, and thus their fans (in general) are waaay too cool, waaay too hip and ultimately waaaay too “indie” to be caught dead committing such a fashion faux pas. However. Example b: anytime I’ve seen Rush play, literally EVERYONE (sometimes, band members) is wearing a Rush shirt. The band, and thus their fans are waaay too nerdy, waaay too fanatical and waaay too proud to be caught dead NOT wearing a Rush shirt. I’ve been on both sides.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2018 at 1:49 pm
    Permalink

    I’m always amazed at how eager rock fans are to come up with “rules” for shows. Why? I’d like to at least pretend rock music still has a whiff of youthful rebellion about it. Sure, when you have a bunch of people in an enclosed space, some order will have to be imposed to avoid bloodshed and to make sure the show actually goes off. But dictating what t-shirts people are allowed to wear? C’mon.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2018 at 4:26 pm
    Permalink

    If this is a rule, then post it at the venues. Never heard of such stupid elitist crap before. Maybe it’s a broadcaster thing.

    Reply

Let us know what you think!

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