Band as a Brand by Emily Chackowicz

Take a walk through any popular store and you’ll find yourself navigating a sea of band t-shirts. Metallica, Guns n Roses, Nirvana, The Grateful Dead, WHATEVER: just a never-ending stream of rock bands and hip hop acts from the past. There is no denying that their album art and the symbols they used to represent their group are interesting and edgy, cool and simple. Standing in the aisle, gazing at the seemingly infinite variety of shirts, you can piece together a mosaic of different outfits based on the vibrant colors, patterns, and vibes of each top.

On Instagram, it seems like every professional model is sporting something from Thrasher. For those that don’t know, aside from selling shirts and sweatshirts with an aggressive, flaming font, Thrasher is a skateboarding magazine that started in 1981. Their apparel has accrued somewhat of a cult following over time. It’s simplistic, gender neutral, affordable and versatile.

The big dilemma in wearing band tees is whether or not to wear a shirt if you don’t have a connection to it. Should you wear a Metallica shirt if you don’t listen to their music, if you don’t know a single song? Should you wear a Thrasher shirt if you don’t read their magazine or skateboard? I don’t have a concrete answer for you; it’s a difficult question to answer! However, here’s my thought process.

Simply put, I don’t wear band shirts. I don’t purchase them and I don’t wear them. HOWEVER, my one exception, or rather my justification, is if someone who connects with the band or magazine gives me the shirt, I’ll wear it.


Clothing can be a conversation starter and wearing something that advertises or suggests an interest can attract people who perceive they have a mutual interest with you, based on what you’re wearing. I don’t mean to dismiss true fans who use their clothing to express their genuine interest and support, honestly I respect it. If it’s a band, it’s about the music and the experience. It’s about celebrating and supporting the hard work and the artistry. The clothing that came out of it is rather irrelevant. If it was bought at a concert, then it’s a piece of memorabilia and a contribution to a band you support. If it’s Thrasher, there’s a historical association with rebellion and delinquency. It created a space and outlet for outsiders. A celebration of freedom and independence. Most significantly, this magazine validated a large groups kids who were in desperate need of acceptance by creating role models for them to look up to. The clothing came afterwards. Who knows, maybe I’m overanalyzing this and readers and fans don’t care what my damn t-shirt says. As much as I admire skateboarding culture, I don’t think my one-time purchase of skateboarding shoes when I was six doesn’t counts. I understand that wearing a Taylor Swift shirt does not look nearly as cool as wearing a hard-hitting Rolling Stones t-shirt, but if you’re a fan, why not wear something that reflects and supports who you like?


One final note, if you really like a band shirt design, give their music a try. You may find that a band’s music might reflect the album art you found so appealing in the first place. Just be sure to respect the band as more than just a brand.


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