Remember when as teens, we millennials wanted to wear band tee shirts because it was “cool”? Bloggers and influencers have been styling their outfits with these tee-shirts and have given rise to a popular street style fashion trend. Controversies stirred around the adornment of these band tee shirts as just a fashion statement. People who barely had any knowledge about metal and punk rock bands and artists were wearing these tee shirts, including celebrities like Kendall Jenner.
While everyone wants to adopt a part of this rock and roll culture to look trendy, the uprise of the band tee shirt trend upset a number of artists and fans. Their belief was that unless someone is truly passionate about the genre of music and religiously follows and appreciates the band, it is really offensive to the artists if they simply wear their names without it having any meaning. Most such issues arose from the rock and roll, punk and heavy metal band communities. Given that these genres of music are understood and liked by only a certain part of the population, it definitely came as a shock to the artists that people who possessed no prior knowledge of the band or the kind of music that they produced, were wearing these t-shirts for the sake of ‘fashion’.
Stairway to heaven? What’s that?
It is obvious to say that people cannot be told what to and what not to wear. Even though some may have only heard “smells like teen spirit” by Nirvana or “nothing else matters” by Metallica, they can still find the band appealing and choose to style a perfect grunge look by wearing their tee shirts. The band tee trend soon spread to other mainstream artists releasing their own official merchandise at concerts and selling in retail stores through collaborations with other designers. At the same time this trend spread like wildfire in the fashion industry. In 2012, Balenciaga released a tee shirt that had the red font similar to the Iron Maiden ones. It was worn by celebrities who have a gigantic social media following such as Rihanna and Kanye West.
Following suit, fast fashion brands like top shop started producing band merchandise that became best sellers at the time. Many teens who owned at least three to four band tee shirts were hardly familiar with the band. Some even said that they had heard of it but never really listened to this music. While the younger generation adopted this trend with goal of being trendy and stylish because of the simple reason that they ‘liked the logo’, the older generation found it to be disrespectful given that to them it stood for something. It was ridiculous for them that a person claiming to have a ‘punk’ personal style was unaware of the ‘Misfits’ and some of the other most popular artists of the era.
Band tee shirts – rebellion or fashion?
While it is right that people can wear whatever they like, even if it is a band tee shirt that they don’t know about, they should at least try to understand and explore the band that they are wearing instead of only posing with it. This may also help them discover new genres of music that they may like.
It is well known that band tee shirts became a significant element while styling a grunge look. They are in all senses ‘cool’ and create a strong statement. Teens who were rebellious were often known to wear such merchandise in order to exhibit a tough and ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
Apart from wearing band tee shirts for the love of your favorite bands and showing your musical colors, it is a lesser known fact that band merchandise contributes to a large part of the artists’ income. The Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association reported that the global music merchandise market (of which tee Shirts are a considerable part) was worth $3.1 billion in 2016, up 9.4% from the $2.83 billion generated in 2015. To put that in perspective, the gross revenue from live music concerts worldwide during 2016 was $4.88 billion; while the global market for recorded music that same year was worth $15.7 billion, according to IFPI. (Forde, 2018)
Its all about the ‘Hype’
However, in the last few years fast fashion brands like H&M made this trend very mainstream and made official merchandise sold by the artists loose authenticity. With this came the end of this fashion trend. It is easy to say that it did make a great impact and in some ways really attracted a larger crowd because of which some of the lesser known bands of the grunge era well known to the newer generations. This trend also created marketing and retail opportunities for the pop generation artists and helped create a greater ‘hype’!